By DEBBIE WACHTER MORRIS dmorris@ncnewsonline.com

A cooling tower outside the Lawrence County Government Center makes a difference for about 100 employees on a summer’s day. But the 29-year-old cement-enclosed structure has seen better days, and now it’s time to replace it. According to county maintenance director Frank Piccari, the tower provides ventilation and cooling for the entire building. At their public work session Thursday, the commissioners approved a contract of $120,485 with Guy’s Mechanical Systems of Rochester to replace the tower, pending approval of the county engineers. Guy’s was the lowest of four bids. Commissioner Dan Vogler said the money to replace the structure will come from the county’s capital reserve fund. “Some of the coils have been leaking,” Piccari said, pointing out a section that had been cut out of the concrete to patch one of them. “The life expectancy of this tower is 20 to 22 years, so we’ve gotten our money’s worth out of it,” he said, adding, “Everyone who bid remarked they couldn’t believe it’s the original tower.” County maintenance workers have to treat it with chemicals and maintain it regularly, Piccari said. The structure is made in Maryland by the Baltimore Air Cooler Co. Inc., and the new one will look similar to the existing one. It will take about eight weeks to install, and the work will be done over weekends when employees are off so there is little disruption, county administrator James Gagliano said. Piccari explained the old tower will be lifted out with a crane and the new one will be lowered in. He pointed out a lot of the offices in the courthouse, including the courtrooms, have no windows, and “Without that tower, we have no air conditioning.” He expects the installation to be completed by October.

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