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Agency to seek independent assessment of state Capitol H&AC system

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A state agency will seek bids for an engineering study of what it would take to replace or fix an aging heating and air conditioning system at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

John Richard, director of the Department of Central Services, told a legislative committee on Monday that his agency would pay for the $150,000 study.

During this year's legislative session, Rep. Mark Liotta blocked a proposed $27 million bond proposal to replace the current system. Liotta said he was concerned that only one bid was submitted on the project.

``Proposals for additional bids need to be made in the order of fairness and responsibility,'' said Liotta, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget General Government and Transportation Committee.

Richard said the geothermal heating, venting and air conditioning system, which utilizes 585 heat pumps, was installed in 1990 and is deteriorating at a rapid rate. He said the DCS was forced to respond to 50 system failures a week during this year's legislative session.

In 2004, the DCS solicited bids from major mechanical construction companies in the state, but Johnson Controls submitted the only bid for the work.

The Wisconsin-based company, which has an office in Tulsa, proposed three options.

One option would repair the current system at a cost of $11 million and a second option would replace it with a new system costing $20 million. The third option called for placing heat and air conditioning equipment on the Capitol roof and would cost $27 million.

At Monday's meetings, officials of Johnson Controls said the $20 million and $27 million options would create a system that would last for 30 years, instead of 15 years for the heat pump system, and would result in a $5 million savings in energy costs.

They also said changing the system would cool large areas of the Capitol that currently have no air conditioning.

A consultant who worked on replacing the heating and air conditioning system at the Wisconsin Capitol said it was important for legislators to consider a system that creates a safe environment for art work located throughout the Capitol.

Much of that art work is located in the rotunda areas, which are not currently cooled and have high humidity, which can be damaging to art, officials said.

Liotta said there may be legitimate reasons for upgrading the system, including a responsibility to maintain appropriate air quality inside the 500,000-square-foot building for employees and visitors.

``But it is my responsibility to make sure the Legislature has all the facts necessary to make the best decision for the state,'' he said.
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