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Air quality problematic in Berkeley building

January 11, 2001

Air quality problematic in Berkeley building



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A new air quality problem has come to light at the Berkeley County administrative building already suffering from bad air.

The odor of sewer gas sometimes permeates the 100-year-old building at 126 King Street, county Facilities Manager Walt Davis told The Berkeley County Commission at its regular weekly meeting Thursday.

"It's not constant, it's an on and off thing," Davis said of the sewer smell.

The building already has been studied for other bad air problems that some believe may be causing allergy problems among the employees.

Several years ago, a sewer gas problem afflicted the courthouse at King and Queen streets. That was fixed when the building was renovated.

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Davis said he cannot find the source of the problem in the administrative building.

"I've been all over that building and I'm a plumber and I can't find it," he said.

He said he would probably put a smoke machine in the building to see where air flows and where the problem might be. "It's possible they left a (pipe) open when they renovated the building five years ago," he said.

Davis had previously recommended the building be torn down instead of spending the approximately $120,000 a consultant has said would be needed to fix it. That firm gave him an estimate this week of $11,000 to do the architectural and design work for any fix.

Davis said he doesn't believe the county would be well served by putting money into a building that old.

Davis said after the meeting Thursday that the commissioners may find it better to stay in the building. Davis and the commissioners are working on forming a committee to study county building needs, with the possible idea of building a judicial and administrative center across King Street from the courthouse complex.

"Even if we get that approved, we won't have the building built for three years," Davis said. It might not be possible to lease space for the employees at a lower cost than fixing up the administrative building, he said.

Davis said the committee to study the county building and space needs should include the commissioners, perhaps the fire chief from Martinsburg, someone from The Berkeley County Building Commission, a local state legislator, historian, retired business people and citizens.

Commissioner Robert Burkhart said he wants to have elected officials on the committee.

"I think the people who work in the building day to day should be the ones to say 'this is what needs to be done,'" Burkhart said.

Davis has been pushing the idea of a new building for 10 years, but said the situation has become critical.

"We've actually in the past gotten up to the point of bidding on buildings, then backed away," he said. "That can't happen this time. We just don't have the space."

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