Airport, County Building Struggle To Beat The Heat

Aug. 15--Failing air conditioners have left some feeling the heat in the Hilton Head Island Airport and at a county administration building in the city of Beaufort, county leaders say.

Decades-old units at the airport and the Arthur Horne building on Ribaut Road are running for now, but the county is seeking bids for their replacement, county administrator Gary Kubic said.

Throughout the summer, the six air-conditioning units at the airport had technical problems, leading to a few especially hot days in the terminal and employee offices last month, airports director Jon Rembold said this week.

County maintenance workers patched most of the systems so they can survive the summer, and parts for further repairs are to arrive next week, Rembold said.

"They've worked some miracles on the roof out here, that's for sure," Rembold said. "When we started the summer, I thought we'd be able to replace one or two units and get by, but we had a couple guys come out here from (the facilities) office, and it was apparent we needed to replace them."

All but one of the units working today were installed at the airport in 1995, he added.

Some passengers have complained about the heat, and workers responded by shifting the working units to cool the public spaces in the terminal, leaving some county and rental-car company employees to sweat it out in warmer back offices, Rembold said.

Replacing the units will cost about $100,000, according to Rembold's preliminary research. The airport will pay for them from its maintenance budget, which is separate from the county general fund, he added.

County maintenance teams also have the aging air conditioners at the Arthur Horne building patched up for now, Kubic said. That building is home to the county magistrate court and information systems department.

The two units there were offline for more than a day in early July and the heat forced Kubic to send those staff members home early one afternoon, he said. The 35-year-old units apparently blew a circuit in the building, but no computer equipment was damaged when the circuit failed or during the heat, he added.

"These two units must have heard we're trying to replace them and got mad and shut off," Kubic said. "In the meantime, we're trying to get something to augment the portion of the (air conditioner) that's out."

The county might move the magistrates and information systems department later this year and raze the building at some point, according to Kubic. As such, the units probably won't be replaced, at least not immediately.

New air conditioners at more than a dozen other county buildings are part of a $17 million borrowing plan approved by County Council earlier this year. That plan includes other capital improvement projects, such as replacing the Perry Clear Bridge on Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and repairing leaky roofs on eight county buildings.

The county seeks proposals for the replacement work at the airport and nine other county buildings, including the Law Enforcement Center, Human Services building, Emergency Medical Services building, and the Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island libraries, according to the request. Bids are due back in the beginning of September and work would begin soon after a contractor is chosen, Kubic said.

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