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Geothermal well-drilling begins on courthouse lawn

A crew drills a geothermal well on the north side of the Ogle County Courthouse. Forty 200-foot deep wells will be drilled for the geothermal heating and cooling system that are part of the building's renovations. Photo by Vinde Wells

By Vinde Wells – Editor
A well-drilling rig may look out of place on the courthouse lawn, but it actually has plenty of work to do.

The crew from Efflandt Well & Pump, Crystal Lake, has 40 wells to drill and they aren't looking for water.

The drilling is part of the new $1.4 million heating and cooling system which will serve the Ogle County Courthouse.

Renovations to inside and outside of the 118-year-old building started in mid-July.

The well rig crew is drilling geothermal wells —40 of them, 200 feet deep and 20 feet apart in a grid pattern all over the lawn on the north side of the courthouse.

Ogle County Sheriff Greg Beitel said Aug. 7 that the decision to heat and cool the building with a geothermal system makes sense.

Although expensive to install, the system costs little to operate compared to conventional heating and cooling systems.

"It eliminates the need for boilers and air conditioning units," Beitel said. "The payback is seven to eight years sooner compared to natural gas-fired boilers."

The drilling will take at least  a month to complete.

"It takes almost a day to drill a well," Beitel said.

Once the comparatively shallow wells are drilled, he said tubing will be run into the wells and all the tubes will be connected into a continuous loop.

Liquid in the tubes will run into heat exchangers in the building's basement.

Because the ground remains at a constant temperature of approximately 55 degrees year-round, the liquid will cool the building in summer and heat it in the winter, Beitel said.

Nothing from the geothermal wells or system will be visible once the project is completed, he said.

"Once the ground is reseeded, you won't even know it's there," Beitel said.

Some trees, mostly large hard maples, on the courthouse lawn were trimmed Aug. 5 to allow the drilling rigs room to work.

"We took out mostly dead wood and broken limbs," Beitel said. "We tried to get them trimmed back in a way that wouldn't destroy the trees."

Work is also steadily progressing on the inside of the courthouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Beitel said construction crews have been removing walls, many of which were put in during remodeling in the early 1980s, and taking out old plumbing and wiring.

"They've really opened it up on the second floor," he said. "The demolition on the third floor is done or almost done."

Once renovated, the courthouse will contain the offices of the county clerk and recorder, treasurer and collector, supervisor of assessments, coroner, animal control, and geographic information system (GIS) partnership.

During construction, many of those departments are temporarily located in the Watt Building in downtown Mt. Morris.
 
The construction is expected to take 11 months and cost a total of $7.5 million, including the furnishings.

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