Temperatures exceeded 90 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse Wednesday afternoon as crews work tirelessly to conduct planned maintenance of air-conditioning systems there.

In a phone call with the Tuscaloosa Thread, Probate Judge and County Commission Chairman Rob Robertson said it requires two industrial chillers to cool air inside the courthouse, which was built in 1964, and both chillers need immediate replacement.

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"One is far past its useful life and the other is at the end of its useful life," Robertson said.

The chillers have to be built to specification, he said, and if the county had waited until one or both of them failed, it could have taken weeks if not months to get the air conditioning running again.

Robertson said the county commission voted last year to replace both chillers and the work was meant to begin this spring when it was cooler, but the work was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and difficulty arranging the labor -- he said the work requires electricians to upgrade outdated electrical systems, HVAC workers, heavy crane operators and more.

The delay meant the work had to begin in the heat of the summer, but Robertson said it was better to tolerate a little pre-planned pain now than risk the system failing and living without cool air for weeks.

If all goes according to plan, at least some air will begin moving through the building by Thursday at noon, Robertson said. Until then, courthouse employees and visitors will have to endure the heat  -- the probate judge said he'd be right there working in the courthouse, sweating with the rest of them.

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