BROOKSVILLE — Visitors to Brooksville City Hall over the past few weeks have had to endure some inconveniences as construction and renovation work continues at the downtown facility.
The Utilities Department's popular drive-through window is temporarily closed, so paying a water bill now requires a trip by elevator to the second floor.
And anyone wanting visit the City Hall Art Gallery has been simply out of luck. It's been closed for several weeks.
But, according to City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha, things should get back to normal within a few weeks, once work is completed on the building's new air-conditioning system.
"It's going along very smoothly," Norman-Vacha said. "We've had a few minor challenges relocating staff, but they've been understanding. We've needed to have this work done for so long."
After years of patchwork repairs and sky-high electric bills, city officials chose to get rid of the 34-year-old air-conditioning and heating system that was costing more and more to operate.
In its place will be a state-of-the-art variable refrigerant flow system that is part of the city's overall initiative to make itself greener and more cost effective.
Council members last year hired Energy Systems Group of Clearwater to come up with suggestions that would produce short-term and long-term benefits in a number of citywide systems.
The company's recommendations included switching to digital, radio-read water meters, new energy-efficient LED lighting in parks and upgrading air conditioning systems in several public buildings.
Chris Summers of Energy Systems Group said the entire upgrade package, which will cost about $3.3 million, will pay for itself within 15 years.
"The city decided to look toward its future and do something proactive about it," he said.
Norman-Vacha agreed, saying that the city's new air-conditioning system should result in annual energy savings of about $10,000.
"Over the next 10 to 15 years, that will be significant for the city," she said. "It will also save us money by not having to pay for repairs like we have been."
Work on the new system began in November with the replacement of the roof at City Hall.
Since then, workers have been busy installing new piping, wiring and retrofitting duct work to handle the new units that will be installed on the building's roof.
With work on the first floor nearing completion, construction will move to the second and third floors of the building.
Staffers now working on the second floor will be moved to the completed areas and to other sites while construction continues.
Summers said that all of the work will be completed by either late March or early April.
Because the City Council chambers are also part of the renovation, council meetings have been moved temporarily to the County Commission chambers at the nearby Hernando County Government Center.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]