For more than a week the air conditioning system in the old portion of the old Flagler County Courthouse—now the First Baptist Christian Academy, a thriving parochial school—has been undergoing some adjustments and repairs after a problem was discovered late in the school year. ServPro, the local environmental clean-up company, has been carrying out the work under contract by the county, which still owns the building.
School and county officials say the repairs are a combination of routine maintenance and preventive measures, and both discount concerns that there are any new mold or other environmental issues in the building. The original portion of the building, which fronts onto State Road 100, or Old Moody Boulevard, is 90 years old. Mold issues in the building have been previously documented: it was one of the reasons Bunnell returned the building to the county after taking ownership. But the entire building, including the annex, built in 1982, underwent extensive and expensive renovations when the Baptist school took it over last year.
“I wouldn’t term it like mold clean-up, I think it’s probably a result of the AC, the duct work,” Heidi Petito, the county’s director of facilities, said of ServPro’s work, which had been scheduled before the summer. “No lead paint or any issues I’m aware of, it’s just regular cleaning and maintenance.”
Petito said that in June a school staffer had turned down a room in the general assembly room—one of the former court rooms—to 60 degrees, then forgot to turn it back up. With such cool temperatures and the warmer attic space, it caused condensation, “so there was some damage to the ceiling tiles that had to be removed,” Petito said. That, she said, was the extent of the physical repair to the structure.
The county’s cost of the contract with ServPro is in the $20,000 range, Petito said, though that, too, is part of the arrangement with the school: the building is leased to the academy, but the air conditioning is still the responsibility of the county.
“For the peace of mind for our staff, students and families,” Pastor Kevin Lautar, a director at the school, said in an email, “we have asked that ServPro be involved in the ongoing maintenance of the air quality in the building to ensure that moisture, mold or mildew are not issues now or moving forward. We have been satisfied with the county’s and ServPro’s performance regarding these important issues.”
Lautar stressed that there have been no maintenance issues in the annex building, where all classes are held during the school year. “The work being done only pertains to the administration space of the Academy,” he said. “This facility has proven to be an excellent fit for our Academy and we look forward with great anticipation to see what the futures holds.”
Lautar explained the ongoing maintenance matter in the older part of the building this way: “During this maintenance, it was discovered that the air conditioning systems in the administration space is running too efficiently with too much tonnage. This means that the air is cooling too fast without being properly conditioned and there is some moisture left in the air. This is not a big concern in the fall, winter and springtime because the humidity is not as high. However, in the summertime, any extra humidity can be a concern. Because of this, the air conditioning systems are being reengineered to adjust the tonnage and the attic space above the administration area is being sealed and insulation being laid.”
Petito said thermostats have been added to the system to prevent it from being turned up or down by more than four degrees, thus reducing the likelihood of air being cooled too much, too rapidly, and causing the sort of condensation issue the AC did in June.
Two people familiar with the work going on inside said that workers had been instructed to be as little visible as possible, with whatever materials being cleaned up and taken out of the building taking place after dark, again to minimize visibility—and workers suiting up inside the building for the environmental work, so as not to alarm anyone. They said the county had directed the workers to be as circumspect as possible. Petito, however, said “there’s nothing to hide as far as doing regular clean-up and maintenance.”
“If people are working in the area we would probably block it off or encourage people not to be in there,” Petito said.