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Courtroom drama not as scorching

Judge Ric A. Howard will no longer have to sweat out air-conditioning problems that sent his courtroom into the 80s.

By COLLEEN JENKINS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003


INVERNESS -- The thermometer at Circuit Judge Ric A. Howard's bench now reads a balmy 72 degrees Fahrenheit, a sign that the erratic temperature problems in the county's new courthouse addition are solved.

"It's as good as any courtroom I've ever been in now," Howard said last week.

Howard recently complained of stifling conditions in his courtroom in a letter to county officials. While the air-conditioning system seemed to work overtime in one end of the courthouse, Howard's courtroom endured 80-plus degree temperatures.

County officials initially thought the construction in downtown Inverness had occasionally interrupted the water supply or interfered with the water pressure fueling the building's chiller system.

But representatives from Dooley and Mack Constructors Inc. later realized the city's system was functioning properly and had not affected the courthouse. Instead, an existing problem in the chiller system was to blame, county officials said.

The air-conditioning system eventually will blast cool air into the new and old sections of the courthouse. Right now, it's operating mostly in the new addition, and workers had tinkered with the system to prevent it from overworking there.

Their strategy didn't work as planned. Pressure had been building in the system, and as a result, it shut itself down as a protective measure to keep from burning up, County Administrator Richard W. Wesch said.

So, at the county's prompting, workers retooled the system. A harmony of temperatures throughout the building soon returned.

The county also replaced the light bulbs above the judges' benches with less expensive, less-heat producing ceiling bulbs, officials said.

"Essentially, (Howard) was sitting under heat lamps," commission Chairman Jim Fowler said.

Howard credited the speedy responses of Fowler and Wesch for making life in the courtrooms much more comfortable.

"They did a great job," he said. "I'm very happy."

-- Colleen Jenkins can be reached at 860-7303 or cjenkins@sptimes.com.

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