Arrow-right Camera


Courthouse, post office getting energy upgrades

Michael Nuernberger, senior lead project manager for the U.S. General  Services Administration, will oversee a $43.6 million project to upgrade the Thomas S. Foley U.S.  Courthouse building, along with another $2.3 million in work at the post office next door.  (Dan Pelle)
Michael Nuernberger, senior lead project manager for the U.S. General Services Administration, will oversee a $43.6 million project to upgrade the Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse building, along with another $2.3 million in work at the post office next door. (Dan Pelle)

Stimulus funds to pay for work; job expected to take 20 months

When the federal courthouse opened in downtown Spokane, gasoline cost 33 cents a gallon, a postage stamp was a nickel and a new home would set you back about $25,000.

Forty-three years later, the Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse is showing its age – in places not always visible to the public.

Bulky steam boilers, dated air-handling equipment and old wiring will be replaced in a major upgrade to the nine-story building. Additional work is under way next door at the 101-year-old U.S. post office, which doubles as federal courthouse and office space.

The projects are funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided billions of dollars to retrofit federal buildings to boost energy efficiency and create construction jobs.

Improvements to the Foley Courthouse are expected to result in 30 percent energy savings, according to the U.S. General Services Administration. The goal is to achieve a silver rating in LEED, the green building certification program.

“That’s what this project is: energy efficiency,” said Michael Nuernberger, senior lead project manager in the GSA’s regional office.

As many as 50 workers will be on the job at the peak.

Work will kick off Oct. 20 and last nearly 20 months, the GSA said.

The courthouse upgrades, to cost $43.6 million, will improve working conditions for about 300 employees of the federal courts, Justice Department, IRS and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The building at West Riverside Avenue and Monroe Street will remain fully occupied while contractors replace all electrical, heating and air-conditioning systems. Crews will gut the fan room and install new blowers that will move air only to spaces that need it, rather than operate all the time.

Cooling towers on the roof for air conditioning will be refurbished; elevators will be updated; and a larger revolving door designed to keep out the weather will be installed at the front entrance.

In the basement of the post office, steam boilers that heat both buildings will be removed and replaced. New boilers will heat by circulating hot water rather than steam – a more efficient method. When the work is done, each building will have its own heating system.

A military entrance processing station on the second floor of the courthouse will move into a new building on the West Plains in January. The 20,300-square-foot center for armed services recruits is under construction at 8510 U.S. Highway 2, near Airway Heights. The U.S. Marshals Service – the enforcement arm of the federal courts – will expand into the space vacated by the processing station.

At the post office, workers now are replacing the roof and will also update the heating-cooling- ventilation system. The work there will cost $2.3 million.

The projects are a joint venture of Lydig Construction Inc. of Spokane; McKinstry, a Seattle-based design-build firm; and Hill International, Inc., a New Jersey-based project management company. Six subcontractors are based in Spokane.

The projects are scheduled to be completed by June 2012.

Putting a lid on it

Spokane will put a lid on some of the foulest odors wafting from the city’s regional wastewater treatment plant, between Northwest Boulevard and the Spokane River.

Four round concrete pools that collect sewage will be fitted with aluminum covers as part of more than $12 million in upgrades to the Riverside Park Water Reclamation Facility.

The work, by Garco Construction Inc. of Spokane, will last 18 months to two years, said Mike Coster, operations and maintenance superintendent for the Wastewater Management Department.

The 125-foot-diamater pools, built in 1958, are primary clarifiers where waste settles, separating water from solids before treatment begins. Each tank pool holds about 1.25 million gallons.

Residents above the plant along Northwest Boulevard and visitors to Riverside State Park smell the foul air from the clarifiers. Once capped, the odors will be absorbed by porous carbon, which can be disposed of as a solid waste.

The caps and carbon filtering, Coster said, will result in “drastic reduction in odor generation” from the plant, which can treat up to 44 million gallons a day from Spokane, Spokane Valley, Millwood, Fairchild Air Force Base and other areas.

The work is one piece of an effort to upgrade aging systems and comply with environmental regulations.

Concierge for busy lifestyles

A concierge isn’t always found in the lobby of a hotel or apartment building. A new business, Spokane Concierges, caters to families, individuals and corporations that need a little help and want to save time.

The company, according to founder Zebbie Ellingson, is dedicated to managing the details that make up clients’ personal and professional lives.

Services include general errands, personal assistant, relocation and employee retention. Clients also have access to a preferred vendor network.

Spokane Concierges employs three commission-based “lifestyle managers.”

Hours of operation are weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. After-hours and weekend service are available for an additional fee.

Contact: (509) 443-2283 or

Here’s the Dirt is a weekly report on new developments and business openings, closings or movement in the Inland Northwest. E-mail or call (509) 459-5528.

Click here to comment on this story »