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The trouble with time

Rebcca Pierce, Editor, reports Tim Neeb has a lot of time on his hands – and it’s a problem.

Every spring and fall, Neeb, the Barry County custodial and maintenance supervisor, and his crew have to reset the time of the county courthouse tower clock.

Since the clock’s controller is obsolete, Neeb and his staff must reset the time twice every spring and fall to synchronize it with Daylight Savings Time.

Last spring, when they were handling this task, all of a sudden, the clock’s electronic controller malfunctioned, throwing the clock face drive mechanisms into fast-forward mode.

The hands on the four big clock faces spun out of control, stopping only when the clocks were off by six hours.

The custom clock mechanism has four-way distribution gearing, drive rods, universal joints, couplings, dial gears with extended shafts, and hand sets for the four-faced tower clock.

“One of those four motors has gotten very worn out,” Neeb told county commissioners at Tuesday's committee of the whole meeting. “To my recollection, it's 20 years old.”

The old controller has no provision for power outages, he said. Plus, since it was programmed 20 years ago, it changes on its own at the wrong time.

“A week or two later, we have to adjust it again,” he said. “It's very difficult to adjust the clock faces. And it's even more difficult to adjust those with the trees.”

After the malfunction, when they were finally able to set the clock faces to the proper time, three of the clock faces reset to the correct time.

But the south tower clock was off – slow - by approximately 10 minutes.

The clock manufacturer, The Verdin Company in Cincinnati, sent a service technician to look at the system. They found that the clock drive on the south side needs to be replaced.

Neeb brought this information to the commissioners’ committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, asking for permission to repair and update the tower clock.

He's proposing the purchase of one controller instead of facing the prospect of having to replace the other three at some time in the near future. “The advantage is that each one of the clocks would always say the same time – even if they're off.”

“All four of them would be the exact same time all of the time. That way, if it's off, it's easier to adjust for all four.”

The price quoted for the work does not include the lift that will be needed to do the work. And, with a new central clock motor, the shafts will be different and new hands will need to be installed on each of the clock faces.

“It will still strike the time, but it will be much more efficient,” Neeb said.

Other features of the clock tower -- the color of the faces, lighting and bell tone – should not be affected, he said. The controller itself is computerized for the playing of music. And the clock tower houses the original bell, which gongs one tone.

“The original bell is still up there and that's what rings every hour,” Neeb said. “The computerized part of it I don't believe is going to come with an interface to hook into the wi-fi so that we could control it with our phones. (But) I don't know that that's an issue.”

The tower clock has four drives and each individual drive costs about $7,000 plus labor to install.

A quote for $12,700 would include a new drive for just the south clock face, an updated controller, and labor to complete the repair.

A quote for $18,990 would update the controller, remove all the individual drives and replace them with a single unit that would control all the faces. Doing this would help ensure that all the clock faces show the same time.

Replacing all the clock drives would require the installation of new clock hands as well as the rental of a lift to install the clock hands, which was not included in the quote.

Neeb asked for $21,000 out of the building rehabilitation fund to repair and update the tower clock.

Commissioners all recommended approval of his request.

In other business involving the historic courthouse, the board is considering a proposed redesign of the courthouse parking lot.

The parking lot is more than 20 years old. The design under consideration would extend the lot about 8 feet to the east. It would include a new sidewalk along the north edge of the lot for pedestrian traffic, and the shrubs that currently hide mechanical equipment would be replaced with decorative fencing. The new design would remove the current middle entrance and both outside entrances would be configured to current standards. The public sidewalk on the south side of the lot would be replaced between these new entrances and the green space between the sidewalk and road would be regarded for better drainage.

Two possible designs were offered to the board for its consideration. Commissioners agreed to recommend that bids be sought on these designs.


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