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As temperatures rise, Jackson County courthouse has no air conditioning

Fan in Jackson County Courtroom
Posted at 10:00 PM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 23:46:37-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's a situation that keeps getting worse for the Jackson County courthouse in downtown Kansas City.

The county spent more than $12 million on repairs to fix water damage after the basement flooded due to water main breaks as well as renovations on the building's six elevators.

The elevators are still being fixed and now a new problem is starting to heat up.

A strong breeze makes it just bearable for those working and visiting the courthouse and that's without any air conditioning.

"With the mask on it is hot," Ladonna Thompson, a visitor, said. "I can't take my mask off so I'm just suffering through it. But I can't imagine what it's going to be like in the summer."

In February, crews drained the pipes that supply water to the 87-year-old air conditioning system ahead of the subzero temperatures.

During an inspection they discovered four leaks.

"It's full of sludge and afraid that once you do turn it on, we could end up with more leaks so this is an emergency order," Dan Tarwater III, the Jackson County legislative chairman said during a meeting on April 12 where the issue was discussed.

At that same meeting, legislators approved more than $1.6 million for temporary repairs.

"I think we probably have legitimately three to five years, maybe seven years, if we push [that] we can probably maintain it for that that period of time," Brian Gaddie, director of Jackson County Public Works said at the meeting.

The work is supposed to be complete in late June.

"The people who I feel the worst for are the litigants, the parties to the cases, the people who have cases here and people who just come to the building to do county business," Judge J. Dale Youngs, presiding judge of the 16th circuit court of Jackson County, Missouri said.

There's now a separate plan legislators are considering to make sure business like jury trials can continue while the repairs get done.

Under the current proposal only floors three through eight will be cooled down. All other floors will have to either adjust their work schedules or work remotely if it gets uncomfortably hot.

"There's no guarantee that this million-six that we're spending still going to make it 68 and habitable, it's could still be an issue given the age of the system," county administrator Troy Schulte told legislators at a meeting Monday.

Moving forward some believe a comprehensive examination of the building's infrastructure needs to happen.

"I think the question becomes what has been the maintenance of the various systems in this building over the course of the years that it's been in existence," Youngs said.

Legislators will vote on the proposed cooling plan on May 3.