Coomer said he was interested in the geo-thermal HVAC system, while a hybrid system also was discussed. Representatives from Brandstetter Carroll Inc., the architects responsible for the new building, said while they would do whatever their client - the city of Danville - requests, the design already had been completed and was only three weeks away from going to bidders. The committee approved the conventional water pump heat source system in June, and any change of plan would have resulted in at least a six-week delay and additional engineering charges.
At last week's meeting, the committee approved a motion to present cost estimates and estimated pay back time periods for the possible heating and cooling systems to the City Commission at a special meeting.
After being given the weekend to review the analysis of each system provided by the architects, the City Commission engaged in a debate on the subject. Coomer continued to advocate the geothermal option, and Commissioner Norma Gail Louis expressed her wishes to move forward in the greenest possible manner.
"I'm not necessarily up to speed," said Louis, "but I have done a lot of research. Most government buildings are going geothermal, and I would like to get more information on that.
"We owe it to ecology. We owe it to the city to find the most efficient and least harmful way of maintaining the building. Green is good."
Louis also questioned the estimated 17-year pay back of the system, given the rising cost of energy. She said it was likely the number actually would be much lower.
Coomer agreed, saying he'd recently conversed with Danville Superintendent Bob Rowland regarding a recent renovation of Danville High School in which a geothermal HVAC system was installed. Coomer advised the commission Rowland said his school system's pay back would be five to seven years.
"He said they're also very pleased with it, and they had no problem putting it in the building," Coomer said.
Commissioner Terry Crowley said Coomer's comparison of the city hall project and the one at DHS isn't necessarily a good one because it is hard to compare two very different buildings like city hall and DHS.
Questions on cost
Crowley also questioned whether the cost of interest and bonding the additional funds was factored into the estimated pay backs of the geothermal system. Monica Sumner of Brandstetter Carroll said it was not. Even so, Crowley said he had reservations with the estimated pay backs as is.
"When you start talking about pay backs in excess of 10 years, that's a problem," he said.
"This is a green system, there's no question about that," said Crowley of the conventional water source heat pump system.
"It may not be as green as the other systems, but we're being as green as we can afford."
Louis requested more time and information to weigh the costs and benefits of a potential change in plans.
"I'm not ready to fully endorse this HVAC until I have some time to think about this. I'm not quite ready to rule out geothermal," she said.
"When schools, libraries and new buildings being built are going geothermal, why are we staying in the dark ages?" Louis asked.
Commissioner Janet Hamner dismissed the idea of waiting for more information on the subject.
"We have all the information we need. The experts we've hired have given their recommendation," she said.
Louis later apologized for her "dark ages" comment, and said she never really thought the new building would not be geothermal.
Mid-meeting without any motion on the table, Coomer made one to go forward with the geothermal system.
"If we're going to do this, let's do this right," Coomer said.
The motion later died for lack of a second.
Without any other motion to the contrary, the previous vote to go with the conventional water source heat pump stood, though Louis said she wasn't entirely happy with the outcome.
"I'm not totally satisfied, but there's nothing I can do about it," she said.