County must install new AC unit to keep courthouse servers cool

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

It might be the middle of the winter in Minnesota, but it’s hotter than “Dutch love” in the room that houses the computer servers at the Houston County Courthouse.

County IT Director Andy Milde and HR Director Tess Arrick Kruger informed the Houston County Board that improvements in the climate control system in the server room needed to be made very soon.

“The compressor on the current AC unit is shot,” Milde began. “It can be fixed, but it’s about 10 years old, must run 24-7 and we don’t know how much longer it will last.”

The massive server computers that connect many of the 200-some county computers produce a tremendous amount of heat. The server room not only needs to remain at a certain temperature, but also at a certain humidity level. Too much humidity is bad for the system and too little humidity causes static electricity.

At the present time cold air from the unheated attic is being vented into the server room. But three humidifiers are needed to maintain the cold, dry air at 40 to 50 percent humidity.

“Right now we’re having a hard time keeping the room under 80 degrees and the cooling fans in the servers are running on high all of the time,” Milde said. “And we’re having to run space heaters for county staff working in adjoining rooms, because they are getting cold. It’s not a good situation.”

Kruger said the county can either fix the existing AC unit or purchase a new system that pulls in outside air during the cold months. This system would include a unit that would keep the humidity levels at the prescribed percent.

Kruger stated she has obtained two bids so far, but was waiting for a third bid before making a recommendation to the board.

She added that it would take at least two weeks from the time the bid was awarded until the work could be done. And with January having five Tuesdays, there was no board meeting scheduled for Jan. 31.

When asked how much she thought the project would cost, Kruger said the new unit would not require any additional venting work, but would need about $1,000 in new wiring. She said the two bids received so far ranged from about $5,000 to $10,000.

Board Chairman Jack Miller asked where the money would come from. Kruger said there is money in the maintenance fund.

“I think we should go ahead with the new system,” Kruger recommended. “It has a five-year payback, as far as energy cost savings.”

A motion by Commissioner Tom Bjerke and seconded by Commissioner Justin Zmyewski to allow Kruger to accept the low bid and move forward with the new system was unanimously approved.

In other board action:

AgBMP Loan Program

Environmental Services Director Rick Frank presented the board with the 2012 Agricultural Best Management Practices Loan Program application.

The program provides low-interest loans to county residents who have non-conforming septic systems, wells and/or feedlots. The money is handled through banks in the county.

Frank’s staff conducts the inspections and makes the recommendations for participation in the program. There are not any income guidelines. If  a property owner has a non-conforming system, he or she can sign up for the program.

Due to a downturn in the economy, Frank said more than $200,000 was carried over from the 2011 program to the 2012 program for Houston County. An additional $62,500 will be infused into the program this year, making more than $262,500 available in low-interest loans (three percent) for property owners.

Frank said they will be focusing more on non-conforming wells this year. If a well is deemed non-conforming, a property owner can secure a low-interest loan to seal the old well and drill a new one.

Frank explained that the program was started in 1996 and has provided money for improved feedlot, septic and water systems for many property owners. The program has also helped improve water quality issues.

“The money is there,” Frank said. “We’ll just have to see what kind of interest in the program is out there this year.”

Frank added that the low-interest program does not include the construction of new systems, just the improvement or replacement of a non-conforming existing system.

Treasurer’s report

County Treasurer Donna Trehus provided the board with a report on the county’s most current investment figures.

The county currently has $9,801,620.14 in certificates of deposit, bonds and money market funds at Houston County banks- Eitzen State Bank, Bank of the West, Merchants Bank and Eastwood Bank, as well as Morgan Keegan Securities of Memphis, Tenn. and Multi-Bank Securities, Inc. of Pleasant Ridge, Mich.

The funds are in numerous county accounts including road and bridge, human services, soil and water, recorder’s equipment, technical equipment, missing heirs, EDA revolving fund, recording compliance, EDA, E-911 and bonds.

Trehus also provided the board with a breakdown of the various accounts and how much interest each account is earning. As of 12-31-11, the county had earned $209,246.80 on those investments.

The highest yielding account was a certificate of deposit with Multi-Bank, which earned 4.65 percent.

  You can contact Charlie Warner at charlie.warner@ecm-inc.com

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