Geothermal heating, cooling considered for courthouse
The Morgan County Commission heard ideas about heating and cooling the future county courthouse with geothermal energy at their Friday, August 24 meeting.
Courthouse architect Tom Potts of Silling & Associates has been asked to see what needs to be done to make this a possibility, said Commission President Glen Stotler.
Former Coolfont owner Sam Ashelman had proposed in a letter to the commissioners that they use geothermal heating and cooling system for the courthouse.
Ashelman said they would save a lot on courthouse operating costs if the building plans used the geothermal energy of the 74-degree water coming from the ground near the courthouse location. It would take less energy to heat the courthouse to a temperature of 80 degrees from 74 degrees than from a ground temperature of 55 degrees.
Ashelman has built two homes over the past two years that do not use any fossil fuels for heating or cooling. He said the homes "produce heating and cooling at practically no cost." He is finishing a third home that will be even more energy efficient than the first two.
Somerset Electric Corporation designed the buildings for Ashelman. He said the company builds 35-40 homes a year.
Ashelman pointed out that the Canadian government has actively pursued implementing geothermal heating and cooling systems in 30,000 buildings in various provinces.
"I think it's feasible," said Ashelman of the geothermal idea for the courthouse.
Wayne Wachter and Scott Wachter of Mountain State Water Well Drilling told the commissioners that they were certified installers of geothermal systems. In the United States, you are required to be certified to put in such a system, they stressed.
Geothermal systems can be installed using loops or wells. Loops can be put in water, in ground or through ground horizontally or vertically. A heat exchanger or heat pump pulls heat through the system.
The initial cost up front is a little more expensive, but they would break even in four to five years and then begin to save money, the commissioners were told.
The Wachters and resident Dean Maxwell spoke of immense savings to the county on heating and cooling bills as well as possible square footage gains in the building design from switching to a geothermal system.
The geothermal system's output could also be used to keep a parking lot or street at a higher temperature so it doesn't collect snow or ice.
"It's an incredibly beneficial technology," said Maxwell, who has explored and discussed geothermal technology extensively for possible use in his home. He said his brother-in-law has a geothermal system at his house.
Stotler asked if a conventional heating system could be retrofitted to become a geothermal one. He was advised that it could be done but that it would be very costly.
A solar energy support system using the wide expanse of roof was also suggested for emergency back-up purposes for the courthouse complex.
Animal shelter land
The commissioners also purchased .07 acre of land from LeEsta Anderson for $5,000 to add two additional septic lines to the animal control shelter septic system drain field. The property adjoins the dog kennel parcel off Route 9 East near Spohrs Crossroads around six miles outside of Berkeley Springs.
Anderson also asked for permission to cut a large corner tree down. Bad limbs from the tree keep falling down where she has to mow. Anderson will handle having the tree cut down and her son-in-law can use the wood, she said. The commission appreciated Anderson being such a good neighbor.
One audience member thought the cost of the acreage was pricey. Commissioner Tommy Swaim said he just bought two one-acre lots and thought it was a pretty reasonable price for a corner lot.
They had been trying to resolve the problem and negotiate buying the property for years, he said. Swaim said they'd had the animal control shelter there since before 2002.
"It's important to us," he said of the land purchase.
Brenda Hutchinson agreed with the purchase and said it was foolish to continue paying to have the septic tank pumped once a month.
Hutchinson said the situation at the animal shelter was better now than reported earlier. Animals are being taken outdoors more now, she said. Concerns had been raised a few months ago about conditions at the animal control shelter.