The city will be spending over $25,000 to replace the polypropylene glycol in the HVAC system at McMinnville Civic Center.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen has voted to accept a bid from Cookeville Heating & Cooling Services, LLC to provide labor and materials to perform the exchange.
“It’s something that’s got to be done,” said Alderman Junior Medley.
“If we’re going to keep the doors open,” said Alderman Jimmy Haley.
The Safety Committee voted unanimously to hire Cookeville Heating to do the work, but Alderman Billy Wood wondered if the city could save money by just purchasing the material and installing it with city employees.
“How hard is it to put this into the system?” Wood asked. “Is this a high-tech procedure? They’ve just got to pump this into the well system, right?”
Wood was informed there was a little more to it than that. The system has to be checked for leaks and have the lines purged to get any air out.
Two bids had been turned in for the job, one from Cookeville Heating and one from local company Bob’s Heat and Air. Wood was also confused why there was such a large disparity, around $10,000, between the two bids, with Bob’s coming in much higher.
“What I don’t understand is the specs say 26 percent is what it needs to run on,” Wood said. “But when you read these two bids, that’s what Bob was doing, bringing it to 26 percent with 550 gallons.”
“What happened was he took the whole system capacity to be how much leaked out, 2,000 gallons,” said interim Civic Center director Greg Wanamaker. “So at 26 percent he was going to put 550 gallons back in it. But the system capacity is actually 9,000 gallons. He thought it was 2,000, and his per gallon price was doubled. It was $30 some dollars versus $15.”
“Well, it’s all over the Internet for $12.65 a gallon,” said Wood. “And they’re charging $14.”
Wood was told the company was unable to buy the material in bulk, which added to the price.
Wood was also concerned about the disposal of the old material.
“We’re going to have to dispose of this stuff,” Wood said. “What are we going to get into with that?”
“We’re going to run it through the waste water plant,” said city administrator David Rutherford.
“So we can run this through the waste water plant?” Wood asked.
Rutherford replied the city had checked with the state and got approval to do so. The chemical is in such a weak state it will not affect the wastewater plant and is also a special biodegradable form of the chemical.
In fact, the chemicals propylene glycol and polypropylene glycol are commonly used in cosmetics and small amounts of propylene glycol are even added to commercial ice cream. However, the chemicals are also used to make antifreeze, though most car antifreeze is made from the more toxic ethylene glycol.
The FDA has even given propylene glycol GRAS (acronym for “generally recognized as safe”) status.
The polypropylene glycol used in the Civic Center’s HVAC system is used as a coolant.
“I understand where you’re coming from,” Medley told Wood. “I’m the one who called Bob’s because I wanted a second bid. What they’re telling you is right. Bob was bidding on 2,000 gallons and it was 9,000. The capacity is 9,000 and he thought it was 2,000, so he thought 550 gallons would bring it up to par.”
In the meeting of the full board, Alderman Everett Brock made the motion to accept the bid from Cookeville Heating & Cooling and it was seconded by Medley.
After some further discussion about the disparity in bids the board voted unanimously to accept the Cookeville Heating & Cooling Services bid.