Local News

Weather turns up heat on Durham police

Posted June 5, 2008 7:25 p.m. EDT
Updated June 5, 2008 11:14 p.m. EDT

— A renovation project that has the air conditioning turned off has Durham police officers feeling the heat in their own headquarters.

Contractors are replacing the HVAC system as part of renovations to the late 1950s Durham Police Headquarters on West Chapel Hill Street.

They reached the construction phase that requires shutting down the air conditioner at the same time that a heat wave is pushing temperatues near 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the Triangle.

"Due to the unexpected spike in outdoor temperatures this week, the building's indoor temperatures also spiked," Amy Blalock, a public-affairs specialist for the city, wrote in an e-mail to WRAL.

At one point, temperatures rose to 93 degrees inside the police headquarters. It was still 88 degrees in Chief Jose Lopez's fifth-floor office on Thursday afternoon.

"Immediate measures have been put in place this week to cool the building and improve working conditions," Blalock wrote. "According to General Services, the building has already begun to cool."

Architectural features of the building, though, defeated some cooling measures. Portable air-conditioning units would not work in some spots, said Jessue Burwell, chief of the police Administrative Services Bureau.

"It puts cold air out of the front here, but it sucks the hot air up, and it was sucking up just beyond the ceiling, but the hot air wasn't getting out of the building," Burwell said.

Some windows at police headquarters do not open, so officers hunkered down with the lights out, shades down and the dress code loosened.

"They can come to work in something comfortble and cool," Burwell said. "No hot pants, but they can wear shorts."

Employees may also work flexible hours or use vacation time, but most "are reporting to work," Lopez said.

Some relief came Thursday as part of the new air-conditioning system came online for the first time. Temperatures should be back to normal early next week as more of the HVAC system is turned on, Blalock wrote.

"It is better today than it has been for the last couple of days," Burwell said.

City officials chose to install a new system during renovations because the old system was near the end of its useful life, Blalock wrote.

Lopez said he hopes that problems such as this will convince city officials that the building needs to be replaced with a new police headquarters.