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Grant Improves Comfort for Nevada City's Employees

June 24, 2010 - 3:46pm

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Caliente, Nev., has a unique city hall: a historic railroad depot. Built in 1923 as a maintenance center halfway between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, the depot is known far outside southeastern Nevada for its role in railway history and its Mission Revival architecture. There was just one problem: it was built before central heating or air-conditioning.

"When the information on the grant came through, I was, to be perfectly honest, singing hallelujah, because I was sitting in my office with two space heaters going and a blanket over my legs," says Stana Hurlburt, grant writer for the city of Caliente.

So Hurlburt and her colleagues applied for, and received, a grant of $265,000 to install a modern HVAC system in the depot. The money comes from the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Caliente is in the northeastern Mojave Desert, where temperatures get into the 100s in the summer and as low as -5 degrees in the winter. That means climate control is mandatory for the offices located in the depot, which also include the city's library, and an art gallery and private businesses that lease space. But the evaporative cooler system stopped working 12 to 14 years ago, so workers make do with electric window air-conditioning units and space heaters. Replacing these with a modern HVAC system will mean big savings in energy and money.

"Not only is it expensive, but the [energy] efficiency is way down," says Ken Dixon, building manager for the city.

The project is currently being designed by Sunrise Engineering in St. George, Utah. Dixon says the building already has some central ducts that will probably be revamped, and some of the ceilings may be lowered to install new ductwork. Fortunately, most of the depot's ceilings are ten to 14 feet high; standard modern ceilings are about eight feet high.

When the design is ready, Dixon plans to take bids from local contractors to finish the work. He expects the bidding to be done by late summer. In the meantime, workers at the depot are revving up their air-conditioners for the last time.

"[There's] nothing complicated about it," says Hurlburt. "It's a historic building, and they weren't built with all of the amenities back in the 1920s."

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