Last January, air testing, floor samples and cuts into the walls of the Sheriff’s Operations Center in Bunnell revealed mold, water intrusion, old wood, bat droppings and other issues that, after more than a year of questions about the sick building, sealed its fate, at least in the eyes of the sheriff and his employees: they would not work in there again.
The conversation changed. It was no longer whether the building could ever be used for sheriff’s operations, but how soon could the county build a new operations center, and where. That question was answered in April when the County Commission opted to build near the public library, off Palm Coast Parkway.
But a question has lingered: would the old operations building, which is not that old, be usable again by any county agency, or re-sellable?
Terracon Consultants, the company that carried out the testing in January, continued its work. It visited the operations building five times in late June and late July. On Oct., 28 it issued its supplemental report, which was disseminated to Flagler County commissioners this week.
The report’s conclusion: There are issues, but they are repairable, or treatable. “Based on our evaluation to date,” the report concludes, “if the recommendations included in the report are implemented and confirmed complete, the building should be ready for re-occupancy.”
That conclusion suggests the county may yet have a viable building in its inventory even as it is well in the process of building a new operations center for the sheriff. But officials previously, including the sheriff, have spoken: no conclusion would lead them back into the building. And when asked about such new conclusions again today, and whether it would change the county’s course regarding the sheriff’s operations, Commission Chairman Donald O’Brien gave an unhesitant and categorical “No.”
O’Brien also noted that yet another report, this one from the Centers for Disease Control, has yet to be turned in. As for the building’s potential future uses, “there’s a lot of ifs for me on that. But for the sheriff’s use, no.”
The reaction was similar from the sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge, the point man on building issues since they arose two years ago (it was in November 2016 that employees first reported serious illnesses, and had to be removed from the operations center.) “At this point in time our focus has been on what we’re doing in the future, not what happened in the past,” Strobridge said. More than 60 sheriff’s employees have been working out of the county courthouse, pending the construction and completion of the operations, or district, office in Palm Coast.
Terracon’s follow-up found “varying degrees of moisture” in 18 of 21 locations below carpeting and vinyl. The report outlines numerous instances of wet glue, musty odors and “suspect visible growth” below carpeting that had been removed and sampled. That was true in the sheriff’s office room (178), even though a square of carpet had just been replaced there. There were similar findings in rooms 168, 166, 161, 165, 146, 111, 118, 153, 128, 129, 103, 105A and 150. In sum, that problem seemed much more prevalent than it had been previously and seemed to argue against ready mitigation, because the report doesn’t conclusively explain why these problems have persisted.
The report states that moisture found in the concrete slab appears to be improving, “most likely due to the perimeter exterior drainage improvements recently performed,” the report states. Yet it also found that 22 of 35 “concrete moisture transmission measurements” were either elevated or potentially elevated–not the sort of numbers that suggest too much improvement.
Drainage improvements outside the building may have addressed the source of the moisture saturating the slab, the report concluded, also noting a pipe leak near the building’s mechanical room, Room 145, where water service enters the building. The report leaves unclear whether the leak was repaired.
Mold detected in the cold-storage room in February was not detected in June and July, but “moderate to high counts” of mold and an “elevated fungal count” was detected in several samples of old wood that was uncovered in the structure. The bat droppings found in February were found to have been localized, with “no anomalies” connected to them.
“The observations and measurement results contained within this report,” the report states, “are considered to be a ‘snapshot-in-time’ and may not be representative of other times when indoor environmental conditions, outdoor environmental conditions and/or heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system operations may be different.”
Terracon recommends hiring a licensed mold abatement firm to clean and sanitize 55 feet of old wood framing in the southwest corner of the building and into the main evidence storage room, and 30 linear feet of wood framing behind wall finishes “along the entire south side of the southeast corner of Training Room 129,” while 12 feet of bat droppings along the south wall “should be properly abated.”
Terracon also recommends mitigation of the concrete, some of it by a contractor, some of it possibly with in-house workers.
The report also leaves certain questions unanswered: “Documentation from the partial flooring replacement efforts and water leak repair work should be obtained and reviewed to see if it has any bearing on the floor moisture issue,” it states. And: “Retain a qualified leak detection firm to evaluate slab conditions at the building’s restrooms and at concrete test locations 11, 22 and 24 to evaluate the possible source of the elevated slab moisture in these areas.”
No costs are associated with the recommendations.