Air conditioning problems shut courthouse

Closed for business: The Vigo County Courthouse closed early on Monday due to issues with the building’s air conditioning system.Tribune-Star/Austen Leake

TERRE HAUTE -- The Vigo County Courthouse closed at noon Monday because of problems with air conditioning, which caused particular concerns about the courthouse’s computer system and telephone switchboard.

“The main concern was an IT closet on the third floor, which is only on the main [courthouse] air conditioner service,” said Lloyd “Joe” LaBree, information technology manager for the county courts. “Since the air conditioning was off, this area has no windows and the room itself was at 95 degrees,”

“I put a fan in there and got it down a couple of degrees, but it was progressively getting warmer,” LaBree said.

A main computer stack for the courthouse is located on the first floor and has a separate air conditioner unit which kept those computer circuits cool, LaBree said.

“My concern was the third and fourth floors of the courthouse. We have battery [powered] units in all of our recording computers.”

“In case power goes out, we can still have court, but some are in small racks and some of those were pushing the 90-degree mark in those boxes as well,” he said.

“If we would have lost the switch stack, we would also lose the phones,” LaBree said.

Air conditioning was re-established to the courthouse by noon, but county judges has already made a decision to shut down the courts, and the county commissioners decided to close the building, said Christopher Newton, judge of Vigo County Superior Court Division 4.

“It was 82 degrees in my court and 84 degrees in [Superior Court] Division 5, but the real concern was the higher up in the courthouse [where] it was hotter. It was 87 degrees in the Circuit Court room, Division 3.”

The judge said the concern for the judges was the potential impact on the court’s computer systems.

Overheating “would cause, if not irreparable damage, considerable damage to the computer system. That was out biggest concern,” Newton said.

“It is starting to cool down, but we had already closed the courts,” Newton said about 12:15 p.m. Monday.

Newton said his court was scheduled for criminal cases in the afternoon, so those cases were moved to the morning. “All of the others ... we ordered to come back next week,” Newton said. “It pushes part of the court schedule back. But our concern it was very, very hot.

“We could deal with the uncomfortable heat, but it was the computer system that we were most concerned about.”

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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