Back in March, the Pierre City Commission had approved the bid to replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units for the city’s aquatic center. The center and its indoor pool is owned by the city, though it is attached to the not-city-owned YMCA building.

Starting well before 2 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 17, crews began the weighty job of taking down the two ancient HVAC units on the roof of the Pierre Aquatics Center. Then the two new units had to go up. Not until after 5:30 p.m. was the lifting done. Remaining was the connecting work.

According to Brooke Bohnenkamp with the city of Pierre, the center was built in 2000, funded completely by city funds. After 19 years the air handling system needed to be replaced, and the replacement project was put into the city’s budget.

The chemicals and humidity from such use as an aquatics center are hard on equipment, agreed Tessier’s Inc. of Mitchell. The HVAC replacement project’s winning bid of $340,000 came from Tessier’s. The old units will go for scrap.

Actually, the work began far before 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

The larger HVAC unit weighs in at 12,700 pounds.

The second unit is far smaller, “a drop in the bucket compared to the big guy,” said Darin Baysinger, service installer with Tessier’s Inc. The weight of the old units — original with the construction of the aquatic center — was unknown. “They don’t keep records that far back on that equipment, at least that’s what I was told,” said Nick Davis, foreman for Tessier’s.

Tessier’s said that there are only two crane units in South Dakota capable of this extreme of a lift and reach. One is in for repairs, and the other is not working up to standards. The crane actually used for this project came out of the Twin Cities. It could not be transported to Pierre by way of the interstate because its size and own weight dictated a maximum speed of 40-45 miles per hour, thus had to be moved on back roads, and many of those have recently experienced flooding.

The crane had to reach out 175 feet. This required five semi-truck loads of counterweights to be placed on the base of the crane. “Ninety tons on back, making 350 tons total for the crane as it is now set up,” said Davis.

Crew members included three experts from Tessier’s, two for the crane unit, and five truck drivers.

All the while, the work did not affect the activities going on inside the aquatics center or in the YMCA.

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