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TN Special Session: Broken water fountains, air conditioning issues in State Capitol amid heatwave

Nov 01, 2023

by: Erin McCullough

Posted: Aug 23, 2023 / 01:18 PM CDT

Updated: Aug 23, 2023 / 05:14 PM CDT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — While tempers flared and discussions became heated on the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives, lawmakers and the public alike were also plagued with heat from outside.

During the Tuesday floor session of the House, Rep. Joe Towns (D—Memphis) asked Speaker Cameron Sexton (R—Crossville) if something could be done about the heat, which Towns said was too high.

“Why is it so hot in this joint? This building is burning up,” Towns asked. “I’m frying. It’s hot outside. It’s hot in here. Are the classrooms hot down the road? I mean, what’s going on, Mr. Speaker?”

“We’ve been working with maintenance,” Sexton replied, adding they were working on getting the air working again.

According to the Department of General Services, the excessive temperatures were working the air conditioning system hard, causing some issues.

“The issue from earlier this morning was due to an air handler shutting down due to a build of condensation,” Director of Communications Michelle Sanders Parks told News 2 via email Tuesday.

She said her department’s STREAM (State of Tennessee Real Estate Asset Management) Division manages the maintenance of facilities through a partnership with JLL, a real estate management firm, which quickly corrected the issue inside the House.

“JLL investigated and addressed the issue and put the unit back into operation. The high ambient air temperature is pushing the capacity limits of the system. However, our team is doing everything they can to keep the space comfortable.”

In addition to the air conditioning issues, water is also of concern to those inside the Capitol, with reports of malfunctioning water fountains inside. The issue was also brought up to Sexton Tuesday morning by Rep. Justin Pearson (D—Memphis).

“It seems the water fountains were either turned off or not working, so can you speak to that,” he asked the Speaker.

Sexton said it was “not accurate” and the fountains had been checked.

“That’s been a misrepresentation,” he said.

However, a News 2 viewer sent a video showing the second-floor water fountain in the Capitol rotunda not dispensing any water when pressed.

According to Parks, there are a total of five water fountains in the Capitol building, three of which are functional at this time.

“One fountain is in the process of being replaced, so we are waiting for it to arrive,” she told News 2.

The other, however, Parks said was “not working” but that the department only learned it was not working Tuesday morning.

“Before this, we were unaware of this issue,” she said. “We’ve put in a call to maintenance and they will have a technician out in the morning to take a look and make efforts to repair it.”

Parks told News 2 Wednesday afternoon the one fountain that was not functioning was discovered to be broken.

“It sustained some type of damage to it, and while we could get the water running, if we did, it would leak all over the floor,” she said. “So until they can get replacement parts, it will remain off.”

Until then, there are two fountains on the first floor in operation and one on the second floor, she said.

Find the latest news from the Tennessee State Capitol as WKRN News 2 brings you coverage of the special session. Click here to read more.

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