RICHMOND -- Carbon monoxide detected at the Civic Center Plaza this week forced the city to turn off heaters and initiate work on the heating and air systems at the recently renovated three-building complex, according to an email from Assistant City Manager Leslie Knight.

"A problem analysis has been completed by a mechanical engineering firm," Knight wrote in an email to all city employees Friday. "A modification to the HVAC system components on the roof has been designed to prevent exhaust fumes from entering into the air intake. Installation will be underway soon with a completion date scheduled for Feb. 21."

There was no mention of how high the carbon monoxide levels were or how they were detected. The city's risk manager, Robyn Kain, forwarded press questions to her and Knight to Richmond Fire Chief Michael Banks, who did not respond to an email as of late Friday.

Knight assured the city's more than 1,000 employees that the building is safe.

"Alarms have been installed on each floor as well which will sound if an elevated level of carbon monoxide is detected," Knight wrote.

The Civic Center complex underwent a $100-million-plus renovation in 2006-8. At the time, a closely-divided City Council opted to install fixed windows rather than operable windows. The decision saved about $1.2 million at the time, but mechanical engineering experts said the operable windows would have paid for themselves in energy and productivity savings.


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In response to Knight's email about the carbon monoxide, Councilman Tom Butt wrote "Operable windows sure would have helped."

Knight wrote back, "point well taken."

Knight's letter said the city's heating boilers would remain off and that carbon monoxide levels would be continually monitored for safety. She assured employees that the city's Public Works Department has been checking the levels three times per day this week, and a Fire Department engine crew did its own testing Thursday.

" ... While fresh air will still be provided for the buildings, no heat will be generated," she wrote. "Employees are expected to continue to work. However you may want to dress more warmly or have layers available to keep yourself warm."

Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com and follow Twitter.com/roberthrogers