If you're planning on visiting the state Capitol, dress accordingly, which means bring your own ceiling fan and/or thermal underwear, depending upon the weather. Public areas in the Capitol have been declared environmentally challenged. "Why?" you might ask. These areas are NOT heated or cooled because our elected officials generally prefer that taxpayers spend as little time as possible down there. With just two weeks left in this legislative session, Governor Brad Henry and Senate leaders -- who spend their workdays basking in climate-controlled quarters -- suddenly have become concerned about the seasonal suffering of Capitol visitors and/or the expensive artwork. So, they have proposed spending $27 million taxpayer dollars restoring our inalienable right to avoid heat stroke and/or frostbite while visiting the historic public building for which we paid nearly a centennial ago. More Outside the Box columns A report recently submitted to lawmakers by a Wisconsin company, says the Capitol's current hybrid geothermal heat pump system is aging, obsolete and increasingly costly to maintain. The company has recommended installing a more traditional heating and air-conditioning system, which coincidentally, they also happen to sell. When the state Capitol was built in 1917, air conditioning consisted of Oklahoma's wind blowing through its many windows. In 1992, the Capitol became the largest single building in the United States to operate on a geothermal heat pump system, which was paid for with a $3.1 million oil overcharge allowance. In 1990, Governor Henry Bellmon lauded the many benefits of the cutting-edge heat pump system and praised the worldwide leader in its development -- Oklahoma State University. The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association's headquarters and state-of-the-art facilities for installation training and geothermal research is currently located on the OSU campus. Consequently, our Capitol has become the poster child for geothermal causes. "GHP technology is saving money in the Oklahoma State Capitol" proclaims Fort Polk, La., which contains the largest installation of geothermal heat pumps. The U.S. Department of Energy also touts Oklahoma's system and claims geothermal heat pumps save energy, money and are aesthetically/politically correct. Ironically, among the proponents of pulling the plug on the Capitol's current heat pump system is Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan, a Democrat from Stillwater (aka) Geothermal Capital of the Universe. Meanwhile, in state government's other irony-free zone, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce is offering financial incentives to school districts for installing geothermal heat pump systems. In the real world, specifically my "how-to" challenged household, my 17-year-old recently was locked in his bedroom after the door knob fell apart. A teenager locked in a bedroom isn't necessarily a bad thing. But eventually, of course, they must go to the bathroom, which can cause a certain amount of parent-child conflict. "So, sue me!" I didn't take "Hardware 101" in college. Besides hardware malfunction/bladder control issues and door knob-wielding offspring -- when something semi-mechanical is broken, basically I have two options: 1. Duct tape. 2. Calling a friend, who knows someone, who recently dated someone and/or divorced someone who might possibly know how to fix something -- assuming of course, they aren't currently incarcerated, in which case my options dwindle to duct tape. So, hypothetically, if the creators of the state Capitol's problematic heat pump system happen to reside in a state-funded institution of higher education -- wouldn't it make sense to call upon their resources to help fix the problem? Possibly even for less than the $27 million sought by out-of-state, air-conditioned cheeseheads via their well-funded local lobbyist. When it comes to heating/air unit maintenance, my biggest decision is whether to buy the $9 filter (traps dust) or the $12 filter (traps dust, bacteria, viruses, dander, insects and/or small pets). The $9 filter works just fine. However, I might consider upgrading to the $12 filter -- if that Home Depot salesman will buy my dinner.
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