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County having a 'bad air' day

December 14, 2000

County having a 'bad air' day



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commission faces a potentially expensive fix to "bad air" that may be causing allergy problems in the building where they and other employees have offices.

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Mold and perhaps other substances may be causing the allergy problems, said Commissioner John Wright Thursday. After meeting behind closed doors, the Commissioners voted to further study the problem.

The problem may be so expensive county officials might prefer not to pay for it, Wright said.

"The building can be fixed, but it may be cost prohibitive," Wright said. "You're talking about figures of $110,000 to $120,000 and it may be more like $150,000 to $170,000. You may be talking about razing the building."

"A number of employees have had issues in terms of allergy problems," said County Administrator Deborah Hammond, who said she is among them.

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"I don't know that the building is the problem," she said. "Allergies can be caused by a whole host of problems. We wouldn't really know until we had an industrial hygienist come in and look."

There are no plans to bring one in as the county works on the problem.

Hammond did not have an exact number for employees who are experiencing problems.

Five full-time employees work on the first floor, eight full-time county assessors on the second. No other county building has reported a similar problem, she said.

The Funkstown architectural firm of Lakin and Moats has been studying the problem for two months. The firm's suggested solution led to the cost estimate of up to $120,000.

"I think that's a minimum," said Walt Davis, the county's facilities director. "It's just bad air. We don't have enough ventilation. We need to introduce some outside air."

The commission bought the building as part of a two-building package (126 King St.-110 King St.) in 1995 for $1.45 million.

"It's the Commissioners' call," Davis said. "If they say fix it, I'll fix it. But I'd rather spend money on a new building."

Wright also said the problem will increase the urgency for the County Commissioners to consider a new county building, perhaps across King Street from the complex of buildings that includes the one with bad air.

"We'll be taking this up in the first month of the new year," Wright said.

Davis estimates a building big enough to meet the needs for the next 10 years would cost about $25 million.

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