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HVAC upgrades urged for prison

The Schuylkill County Prison board voted last week to recommend county commissioners enter into a contract for HVAC upgrades.

“We need to protect the prison from COVID being spread around,” President Judge William E. Baldwin, who is also chairman of the prison board, said.

The board can’t enter into a contract because they are not the governing body of the county even though the commissioners are on the prison board.

Warden David Wapinsky said there are no cases of COVID-19 at the prison.

County administrator Gary Bender said funding for the potential $770,900 Project would come from COVID-19 money.

“One of the problems we face over at the prison is high humidity. The walkways are very slippy, and also the air that gets recirculated. We have a big concern about that,” Bender said.

He said the project was submitted to the consultant reviewing use of the money to see if it is allowable.

“We have a one-time opportunity here to use some of this funding to eliminate some of these problems there with a dehumidification system and an air purification system,” Bender said.

County engineer Lisa Mahall said the McClure Company has been out to the prison to see what is needed. Three energy recovery units with DX cooling, two new rooftop units and two rooftop heat pumps are possible.

“For COVID, they would be utilizing a UV light system,” she said.

The energy recovery units will serve cell block areas within the prison. The rooftop units will serve the classroom, library and multipurpose room. The rooftop heat pumps will be used for areas in maintenance and property storage. The HVAC units will have features such as air filters capable of catching a high percentage of particles, leading to a healthier environment for staff, visitors and inmates. Mahall said the company found additional vents in the prison not being used that could result in cost savings.

Incorporating a bipolar ionization System within the HVAC units can also help, Bender and Mahal said. Work could be done by or before Thanksgiving if approved.