Morgan jail roof, HVAC systems to be replaced
By Erica Smith
For the Enquirer
The Morgan County Commission recently approved allocating $1.75 million in federal funds to replace the Morgan County Jail roof and 52 rooftop HVAC units.
Mike Swafford, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said roof leaks are increasing and mainly affect the hallways and booking area during rain.
The main jail building was built in 2005, and Swafford said it’s the original roof.
“They have caused slight damage,” Swafford said of the leaks, “but are mainly a costly nuisance.”
Ray Long, Morgan County Commission chairman, said the 52 heating and cooling units on the roof are also original to the building.
“Roofs, most of the time they’re guaranteed for 10 years or so, but that one’s been there, it’s nearly 20 years old,” he said. “It needs some work. In fact, we voted about a year ago to replace it, but it’s been hard to get people to come give us quotes.”
The commission paid $9,685 for a drone aerial roof evaluation about a year ago. Morgan County Engineer Greg Bodley said then that the drone was detecting whether the roof could be repaired or would need to be replaced.
“They had a drone do an infrared scan of the roof and it detects moisture and where you have moisture you probably have an issue or potentially have an issue with the roof,” he said previously. “We needed that so we could determine what areas to have the roofers look at and have kind of a base line of square footage so we could actually draw up the bid.”
Long said they were ready to bid out the roofing project about a year ago.
“Then we decided, why don’t we fix the (HVAC) units before we fix the roof,” he said. “It just makes sense to do that because all the 52 units are on the roof. You’ve got to take the old ones out to put the new ones in so why don’t we just replace those first.”
Swafford said the jail’s HVAC issues are ongoing.
“They are working, but the amount of labor and parts to keep them running continues to grow,” he said.
Since some of the units have been going out, Long said, they have been doing maintenance on them.
“Those units (are) sitting up there in the weather,” he said. “We were talking about replacing a few here and there and trying to do that, but now we’ve got these funds sitting here, … why not just replace all of them and start over.”
Long said hopefully the units will not cause any more problems for another 20 years.
Swafford said replacing the units will make the jail more energy efficient.
“With the replacement we expect to see savings based on the newer efficiency of the new units as well as savings in the parts and maintenance of the units,” he said. “The upgrade will be very beneficial and free up resources to address other issues.”
The Morgan County Commission last week approved allocating up to $1.75 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to replace the roof and units. Federal ARPA funds were provided to governmental entities to aid in public health and economic recovery from COVID. Long said all ARPA funds must be committed by December 2024 and any funds that are left over by December 2026 must be given back to the federal government.
“Will it cost that much? I don’t know,” he said. “I always try to overestimate to make sure you’ve got enough money rather than to underestimate and have to come back and beg for money to fix it. We’re hoping we can get it done for less than that, but we won’t know until we put that out for bid and see.”