Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 24, 2013

Bad air: Courthouse mold merits correction

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Old buildings have lots of problems. That’s an unfortunate fact that many homeowners living in aging structures can attest to. After all, these structures were not constructed based upon modern building codes and standards. In many instances, they are relics that time has forgotten. And this is often a problem when it comes to aging government facilities.

Take the historic McDowell County Courthouse in Welch as an example. The building itself is more than 100 years old. Given its age, problems are to be expected. But some problems demand immediate corrective action. And an apparent bad case of mold is an example of such an issue that must be addressed by the county’s governing body.

Several employees and department heads at the courthouse say such a mold problem has apparently developed at the courthouse. In fact, several employees at the courthouse are now having to use inhalers at work due to the mold problem, according to County Clerk Don Hicks.

While county officials say efforts are underway to address the mold problem, they also say a planned multi-million dollar renovation project at the courthouse will provide additional long-term solutions.

“It’s been going on quite a while,” Hicks said last week of the mold problem. “We’ve put in work orders and stuff like that to address it. We’re getting water in the basement, and when you get that, you get mold. The assessor’s got a mold problem, too.”

Hicks says the mold smells bad, affects breathing and is causing some employees to have itchy skin.

The McDowell County Health Department has confirmed the courthouse’s mold problem, and the county commission has contacted a firm certified in dealing with mold problems, according to county commissioner Harold McBride. “We’re going to get them in and take care of it,” he adds.

In the meantime, the renovation project planned for the courthouse also is expected to address other concerns at the facility. The project’s goal is to get the county’s administrative buildings up to code. The renovation project also is proposed to include an enclosed walkway over Wyoming Street between the probation offices and the courthouse, as well as an elevator to ensure handicap accessibility. Contractors hope to maintain the historic aspects of the building during the construction.

The planned upgrades are welcomed and long overdue. But the estimated completion date of the renovation project is 2016. It is imperative that the mold problem at the courthouse be corrected — quickly.

The courthouse is a public building, so the mold problem has the potential to impact not just employees, but also the general public. That’s a concern.

We urge county officials to expedite efforts to identify and remove mold from this historic structure. The sooner this problem is corrected the better.