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Sheriff’s Employees Were Not Imagining It: New Report Finds Mold From Water Intrusion at Sheriff’s Operations Center

| March 1, 2019

Carpet tile removed at a location away from the outside wall in the interiors of the Sheriff's Operations Center showed water intrusion when examined in early January. (Terracon)

Carpet tile removed at a location away from the outside wall in the interiors of the Sheriff’s Operations Center showed water intrusion when examined in early January. (Terracon)

In early January another round of air testing and the first round of examinations behind walls, ceilings and floors at the evacuated Sheriff’s Operations Center uncovered significant water intrusion below floor tiles, old wood and insulation still in use in the building’s rafters, and bat droppings. The discoveries changed the conversation about the building, dimming prospects that the building would be re-occupied and so damaging the credibility of the county administration, which had insisted that the building had been rebuilt with new materials throughout, that it then-Administrator Craig Coffey resigned days later. But the actual analysis of that round of testing had yet to be released.


On Thursday, it was.

Terracon Consultants, the Olathe, Kansas-based engineering company that conducted what it calls “limited destructive testing,” cutting 36 holes in walls and analyzing 11 tile locations, found “Elevated surface mold counts below floor finishes, at the base of two localized wall areas, within an air handling unit and on older appearing wood observed within an upper wall cavity in the Evidence Room.” The level of mold spores at most tested locations inside were found to be lower than spore levels measured outside with exceptions at two locations in the building (the evidence freezer room and the investigations room at the northeast end of the building), but the finds below tiles was another story.

The building is poorly drained, contributing “to water intrusion through the base of the wall and resulted in moisture and mold growth beneath floor finishes,” the report concluded. “The carpet tiles and adhesive have created a vapor barrier at the top of the slab, causing condensation and mold growth at the backside of the carpet tiles. In addition, similar issues are occurring at the backside of the vinyl floor tiles in the corridor and plastic mats on concrete in the Evidence Reception Room.” Analysis added–a line the Sheriff’s Mark Strobridge highlighted in an email to media, clearly seeing it as something of a smoking gun–“It is Terracon’s opinion that the primary source of odors and resulting employee complaints of skin rashes and upper respiratory issues is related to the stagnant moisture and mold growth on the back side of floor finishes.”

Mold on tiles. (Terracton)

Mold on tiles. (Terracton)

The testing also found the presence of fungi in the southeast corner’s upper wall cavities, where bat droppings were found, fungi associated with the potential for severe pulmonary infections.

Some three dozen sheriff’s employees who worked in the building, including most of its detectives, say they developed health problems before the evacuations. Some employees had developed problems severe enough in late 2017 that they were transferred to other locations, and some of them worked out of their cars. All employees who reported issues filed workers’ compensation claims. The sheriff’s insurance carrier denied them. The employees are pressing their claims through the Office of the Judges of Compensation. (A final hearing is scheduled for March 27.) Their attorneys have also notified the county and the sheriff that they would be suing both agencies for negligence in circuit court. (Road deputies don’t have office space in the building, going in and out for briefings, training and other meetings but spending most of their time on the road.)

The Terracon report is not alarmist. It lays out findings in neutral scientific language and lists recommendations, including on the outside sealing certain areas of the building and digging trenches to eliminate standing water against the building, which has led to water intrusion. The report lists several recommendations inside the building that call for additional and extensive analysis, including more ceiling cuts, evaluation of the floor slab, and contracting with a mold-remediation company to remove the so-called black mold found behind the evidence coolers and the investigation room.

What is notable about those two finds is that a remediation company was hired early last year to do similar work, after an indoor air quality assessment in December found identical problems in two locations–including Room 129, where Terracon located persistent problems.

Mold was again found in Room 129, the same room that was supposedly remediated last year, after an analysis had found mold there in December 2017, when employees were first complaining of unhealthy conditions. (Terracon)

Mold was again found in Room 129, the same room that was supposedly remediated last year, after an analysis had found mold there in December 2017, when employees were first complaining of unhealthy conditions. (Terracon)

The Terracon report calls for extensive additional analysis of air samples and floor segments, along with additional examination of wood in overhead rafters and extent of bat droppings, along with six additional wall cuts.

The report doesn’t address the more procedural–or political–question of whether the building may or may not be re-occupied. But what it does address, and the way it addresses it, leaves no doubt that for now, the building cannot be re-occupied, that additional testing and examinations will take time and money–and, most significantly, that employees were not imagining their health problems.

Two more reports are still expected: one from the employees’ attorneys, who hired their own analyst to conduct air testing (and only air testing) inside the building, and a final report from the Centers for Disease Control, whose team visited the facility and met with employees last fall. The Terracon report is below.

The Terracon Report (2019):

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30 Responses for “Sheriff’s Employees Were Not Imagining It: New Report Finds Mold From Water Intrusion at Sheriff’s Operations Center”

  1. capt says:

    The proof is in, the employees were right and the County Commission, well we know the real story.

  2. Dave says:

    Wow SO IT IS FIXABLE!! this is great news for the taxpayers of Flagler County! We were very worried it couldn’t be fixed, but by this report it seems a few things can be done to fix the building and GET THE WORKERS BACK IN THERE. Great news!!

  3. Me says:

    Mr. Coffey had to know about this and it appears was doing a cover up job at the safety of the FCSO staff.

    This is a disgrace that this happened to the Officers that work so hard to keep us all safe.

  4. David S. says:

    Tear that damn place down……

  5. Jack Howell says:

    Vindication for the sick employees of the FCSO. I seriously doubt that the FCSO employees will ever occupy that facility again regardless of what actions are taken by the county to remediate the building. I say this as the county (COFFEY) broke trust with these employees.

  6. Percy's mother says:

    This was a long-term medical facility.

    I wish someone would look into checking the land around the building for evidence of toxic dumping (radiological chemicals used to process plain film x-rays).

    Or, if this were found to be the case, would that open up a can of worms no one wants to deal with?

    I’ve brought this up before but no one is paying attention.

  7. Jack is a liberal says:

    So the building is fixable and Jack Howel says it can’t be reoccupied by the FCSO?? this was not deliberate. No one tried to make anyone sick. Fix the building and get back to work. Did any of you special New Yorkers know that there is mold spores in nearly every Florida home. How about this…Let’s do the same testing in 5 of the public housing homes in downtown Bunnell. I will bet everyone reading this that you will find the exactly same results in those homes that you find in this building!!!

  8. Deb says:

    The best plan, is to tear the building down, dig up the foundation and start anew. This building and the grounds it sets on are

  9. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    Time to get those workmen comp cases out of the closet and begin processing payments to the sick officers who have been the victims of corruption too long.

  10. Vinnie says:

    Turn it into a homeless shelter without windows. That way fresh air always running thru the building Their use to sleeping outside .

  11. Dennis McDonald says:

    The 2013 Commission majority Revels, Hanns,McLaughlin voted to spend our Tax $$ to build a $8 million dollar renovation on a “brownfield blighted special” that sat fallow for 13 years owned by Revels business associates. These three commissioners put OUR good money after bad when they said…”this building has good bones”. Really then why demolish 21,000 sq ft of it without a FDEP permit getting the the Maximum FDEP fine ? What you are now seeing is the result of using a 1970’s shell structure that was deficient even then and never built to 2015 building standards.

    This same STUPID is being copied at the new Sheriff Substation. The 2016/18 County Commission [The Landlord From Hell] continues to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic while putting in harms way the folks that protect us.

    Ruffalo and I remain hopeful for that Federal Grand Jury request that was accepted in the later part of 2018.

  12. John R Brady says:

    How much more on testing and legal fees. Bite the projectile. It was a bad decision. The current County Commissioners inherited a lemon.The current CC has a duty to provide a safe working environment for FCSO. CC needs to find a permanent solution and it will be tough but that is there job. No more wasting time and get it done

  13. In Support of Flaglers Finest says:

    @dave I don’t know who you are, or what dog you have in this fight, but how about you move your desk, or home office, into 901 and tell us how you feel after 3 weeks. And then, when you get sick, and move out… because you will, let’s see how fast you will want them to “fix it” so you can move back in. You are out of your mind if you think there will EVER be a report that will make us feel safe going back in! Our only hope now, is that the county demolishes that disaster and moves on, because NO ONE should ever be made to go into that cesspool, or even on the property for that matter.

  14. Ricky says:

    I wish someone would hold the previous county commissioners, county manager, sheriff and the realtor (ex sheriff’s wife) accountable for this mess. Someone if not all knew this was a disaster from the start and they all should have to pay back restitution and commission on the purchase and sale of this building.

    If at this point the building can be fixed, I say fix it. Then allow me to move into it for a month to see if I get sick. If I do the county pays all my medical bills. If I don’t, everyone moves back in and goes to work. If the building can not be fixed all the above people in my first paragraph should be sued until their pants fall off for wasting our tax dollars.

  15. Helga Gemelli says:

    Years back I was a patient in this building and felt the entire stay that there was an odd odor yet since I was not well at the time did not think to mention it. Now I realize it was not my imagination. The floor carpeting throughout the facility looked dull and not clean. Now I know when it doubt- bring the subject up

  16. Ben Hogarth says:

    “Jack is a liberal” is the exact kind of ignorant that the problem solvers don’t need to listen to right now. I don’t know what was worse – your attack on a well known veteran in the community, or your completely uneducated rant about how a few mold spores in a hypothetical residential home compares to a building that is totally overcome with bacteria and sits in a bad floodplain.

    When I worked for Flagler County, I specifically remember Craig Coffey talking about a section of the building that sat in a bad flood plain portion of the property. Essentially, the drainage of the area and building was so poor, it would have taken a monumental effort to shore it up.

    Fast forward a few years and now we find out that Coffey never had the floodplain mitigated and the building is completely underwater – hence the proliferation of mold underneath. And all of this is neglecting the fact there is a lingering major bat infestation that was never solved.

    So yes, all of us who said many months ago that this building was a disaster are not vindicated. And anyone who doubted those employees, and even degraded law enforcement personnel for their impacted health.. all of these people should hold their head in shame. In my opinion, their ignorance is what cost Flagler a County both more time and more money. Craig and his regime would have been terminated months or years prior if people had simply listened to reason.

    So excuse me mr/mrs, anonymous “Jack is a liberal” for not venerating your idiotic rant. YOU are part of the problem. And now I wonder if the problems stemming from the Sheriffs center will rise to the level of not only civil negligence.. but willful criminal negligence (or worse).

    I sincerely hope the Commissioners who chose not to vote to terminate Craig Coffey are paying attention now.

  17. palmcoaster says:

    Who’s toxic game “Dave” and “Jack is a Liberal” are posting here and in who’s agenda are you two?

  18. Dave says:

    Hey take it easy. I dont wish harm on anyone. I’m just a taxpayer hoping for the best outcome. And according to the report the building is totally fixable. So you are telling me that after a nice remodel the workers still wouldn’t go back? That just dumbfounded me considering we are talking about fixing it. Why would they not go back after it’s fixed? Let’s think about the greater good of the county.

  19. Bunnell Native says:

    Mold spores in the humid Florida air are higher than in that building. Remedy the water intrusion situation and move on. Every home and building in FL will test positive for some type of mold. The key is proper maintenance of A/C ducts and a knowledgeable cleaning contractor that understands the chemicals necessary to keep the mold spore count in check.

  20. Donnie Riddle says:

    Do everyone a favor and bulldoze this place, so much for Coffey and his all clear bs.

  21. DoubleGator says:

    Fix the damn building and move on.

  22. In Support of Flaglers Finest says:

    @dave NO. Would you ever set foot back into an environment (in this case the building) that gave you CANCER or LUPUS if it was “fixed”? The money tied up in this topic is already spent, what they need to do is STOP doing “further testing” cut their losses and move on!

  23. The original woody says:

    The only person that were imagining any thing was Coffey do his job.

  24. gmath55 says:

    If I was an employee of the Sheriff Department and worked there and they did so call fix the building I still would not go back into the building. Even if they tear it down and rebuild on the same property I wouldn’t go into the building. What employee would? Sick or otherwise. Find a new building or build a new building but not on that property.

  25. Concerned Citizen says:

    Everyone wants to point the finger solely at Coffey. Let’s not forget Stayly has had a large part in this from day one. I want to know when he will share a part of the responsability as well.

    Stayly with his many scandals and mismanagement of the Sheriff’s Office has some how come out as Flagler’s fair haired boy. He continuely has issues with his jail and his Deputies yet nothing has been done. He put his staff in that building KNOWING it had issues that weren’t resolved. Yet nothing has or will be done.

    We have a Sheriff who is more interested in playing Wyatt Earp and riding around with has been convicted felons or playing SWAT than he is leading. He doesn’t mind jumping in the middle of a chase already being handled and waving his gun around or getting in the papers everytime an incident happens.

    Folks we demanded a change in our civilian government and got one. The unions rallied and voted no confidence on Craig Coffey. The public pressure mounted and it forced Coffey to resign. Now we have changes under way in the Adminstrative Department.

    Flagler County deserves better with it’s Law Enforcement services. We deserve and should expect a PROFESSIONAL Sherriff who leads his agency on a daily basis. Not runs to Dubai on an unnecessary trip to distance himself from a wrongful death suite.

    Where is the outcry for change with the Sheriff’s Office and demand for new leadership. Remember the Sheriff is an elected official who works for US,

  26. Dave says:

    Yes but I’m only saying if they fix it. I wouldn’t want anyone moving back into the building until after it’s fixed. Then there would be no problems,right? After it’s fixed. Because then well it would be fixed. So why not. Am I missing something?

  27. Haw Creek Girl says:

    I, personally, wish Staly would go to Dubai and stay there like his good buddy Beary did in Afghanistan….we’d be much better off with him showboating over there than all the show boating he does over here….where in the hell is the next candidate…somebody PLEASE step up and beat this clown

  28. Edith Campins says:

    How much, exactly, will it cost to “fix it”?

    I am not a supporter of Mr. McDonald but to be fair, he tried and tried to tell them this was a bad decision.

    To those that think this is something fixable…think about how quietly Coffey went about demolishing the rest of the buikding without getting EPA permission. Think about the fact that this was a hospital and it lay empty for 13 years, in hot, humid Florida. Think about the flood issues and what Coffey failed to do about them.

    Then ask yourselves, would you move into the building after it is fixed? Would youwant family members to work in the building?

  29. Sherry says:

    If indeed any part of the building is sitting in any kind of flood plain, it CANNOT be fixed! If anyone asked me to work in a building like that, I would refuse! Why should any employee knowly put their health at risk??? DO NOT continue to do the “cheapest thing”. . . do the “right thing”!

    Certainly multiple “law suits” will be filed over this whole horrific debacle. County Commissioners/Sheriff, going forward, conduct yourselves and make decisions in a way that would be judged as favorably as possible by the courts. . . because, that is where this whole situation is going to end up.

  30. Sean peckham says:

    Everyone always blames the commissioners or Craig Coffey.
    But the truth of the matter is there is a head of each department.
    They are the ones who do the coverups just like trump and Cohen same principle they keep there mouth shut and intern get a raise . So the morale of the story is in the world of Flagler county being quiet gets you to the top!
    So maby we can all really look at why these things happen and fix the problem considering it now involves a lot of employees health .

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