Mold resurfaces in Social Services office

Published 11:08 am Saturday, October 6, 2018

Mold has once again been found in the City of Franklin’s Social Services building on Main Street.

According to a memorandum from City Attorney H. Taylor Williams IV to the members of City Council, the mold is of a type commonly found in houses. Williams explained that mold has been a recurring problem in the Social Services building, particularly in the basement, due to dampness, the age of the building and the increased humidity this summer. Although this time, the mold has spread from the basement to the first floor.

“The basement is a source of some of the mold due to the moisture that occurs from time to time from groundwater seeping into the basement, and occasionally from flooding,” Williams said.

Russ Pace, the city’s director of Public Works, confirmed that this issue had previously occurred in 2016. One proposed plan for controlling the moisture at the time, he said, had been to completely fill in the basement. However, the city had rejected the plan on the grounds that it would have been prohibitively expensive, and would have necessitated moving all electrical connections and information technology equipment out of the basement to the first floor.

Pace confirmed that as of Friday, all demolition of the drywall in the basement had been completed, and that once the six HVAC valves and dehumidifier installations are completed, a thorough cleaning and sanitizing will be performed on both the basement and first floor. On Sept. 9, the city received a bid of just under $3,300 from MoldStoppers of SE Virginia LLC to perform the cleaning and sanitizing.

After learning of the mold’s recurrence, Councilman Linwood Johnson suggested that the city again look into having the basement filled in, similar to what is being proposed for the Southampton County Courthouse. Otherwise, he said, the city would have to keep spending money to remedy the same issue in the future.

When the council asked about what, if any, health problems had resulted from the mold, Ann White, the city’s director of Social Services, said she had two employees with asthma who constantly have head colds.

“When we come to work each morning, there’s mold on the seats, on the desks, it’s very noticeable,” she said. “I actually had one person who was so sick she went to work at Southampton County DSS for a couple days so we could clean her office.”

Pace, however, said that air quality reports showed that the outdoor air quality was actually worse than the air inside the building, even with the mold.

“The spores that were found inside are commonly found in most outside environments,” Pace said.

Councilman Greg McLemore made a motion to direct Interim City Manager Clarence Monday to put together a proposal to address the situation, to include a plan to pay for any needed repairs, for the council to vote on at their next meeting on Oct. 22.

However, this motion received no second. Johnson countered with a motion to authorize Public Works to proceed immediately with their current mold remediation efforts, to include the projects that had already been put out to bid, and to direct City Manager Monday to come back to council on Oct. 22 with a plan to pay for the cost of said projects. This motion passed unanimously.

When asked if Social Services employees would need to evacuate due to the mold issue or when the cleaning is occurring, Pace said that the only work that could affect their operations is the cleaning and sanitizing.

This portion of the work will be scheduled on weekends to minimize its impact to DSS operations, he said.

Pace added that testing will again be performed by a qualified firm immediately upon completion of the cleaning and other mold remediation efforts. Public Works hopes to have all work complete by the end of October, weather permitting.