City office riddled with black mold

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

VIDALIA — The mayor is getting a new office, but not because he wants one. His old office is infested with black mold.

The problem first manifested itself following Hurricane Gustav, during which the Vidalia City Hall sustained some damage.

After testing, the mold levels were discovered to be highest in the mayor’s office, which has since been closed off, City Manager Ken Walker said.

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“I had to get out of there, because I had pneumonia twice this spring and have constantly been having breathing problems that could possibly be caused by the mold,” Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

And he’s not the only one who has gotten sick.

“I have been to the doctor’s office three times this year, and once I had to be taken to the emergency room because I collapsed in the waiting room,” Walker said.

“I can’t prove that the mold did it, because I don’t have that expertise, but it worries me knowing that this mold is in the building. I am concerned about the health of the employees at City Hall, and I don’t want to see anyone get really ill.”

Approximately 60 years old, City Hall’s roof has been leaking all over the building.

“It has a flat roof, and they are constantly leaking,” Copeland said. “Something has got to be done because the building is in deplorable condition.”

The city has begun to look at ways to address the issues, but it is currently in the preliminary stages because of one issue — asbestos.

“Asbestos complicates the issues,” Walker said. “I am not saying it is going to take that much to fix, but with the federal regulations dealing with asbestos mitigation and mold mitigation, it’s not going to be easy to do.”

After seeking an opinion from an architect, the city has gotten a preliminary estimate of $140 a square foot to renovate the 5,500 square foot building.

Those numbers are not final and are just a preliminary estimate, Walker said.

The mayor’s new office, which is being built adjacent to the city clerk’s office from usually unused space in the city council chambers, will be finished at a cost of approximately $600 using in-house labor, Copeland said.