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County Officials Downplay Clean-Up Work at Old Courthouse as Routine and Preventative

| July 5, 2016

The old portion of the old courthouse--now a parochial school--is 90 years old. It's undergoing some air conditioning work. (© FlaglerLive)

The old portion of the old courthouse–now a parochial school–is 90 years old. It’s undergoing some air conditioning work. (© FlaglerLive)

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.

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9 Responses for “County Officials Downplay Clean-Up Work at Old Courthouse as Routine and Preventative”

  1. Mold Guy says says:

    Sure, do all the work at night when no one is around to witness the severe mold problem this building is known for. I believe this mold problem was the main reason we built the new courthouse and government services building wasn’t it? I Hope none of the children or teachers get sick. The school should give Mrs. Petito a B.S. degree because she explained away the mold problem so eloquently.

  2. tulip says:

    Why on earth would anyone turn the ac to 60 degrees!!! No wonder electric bills are so high! No wonder people “freeze” when in some restaurants and stores. Perhaps some kind of device could be put on the thermostat that prevent someone from going way to high or low on the temperature.

    It also would not surprise me if they did find more mold or other disgusting dirt.

  3. Bartholomew says:

    They are adding a control device. The extra humidity caused by the ac unit being too efficient can lead to mold easily this time of year, but it can be cleaned up pretty easily. For mold to form it has to have three things (as I understand and I’m not an expert).
    It must have high humidity (over 60% for 48 hours or so), livable temperature for the mold, and a food source ( does not have to be much of anything).
    The most efficient and effective element people can control is the humidity. Too much tonnage in an ac unit will cause that humidity. It sounds like mold BUT
    There is mold like everywhere in Florida. Some molds people are highly sensitive to and others not. So you clean it up and try to keep the humidity down below 60%.
    You can’t just shut off ac here and expect nothing to grow though, it does not work like that. If you want to shut off AC you should dehumidify.

  4. Assured it was not an issue says:

    We were assured our children would not be exposed to the mold issues. That they were gone! Its a sick building and this church has gotten it for pennies on the dollar for a reason! I cannot continue to expose my kid to this…last year she was drinking water from the water fountains and having stomach issues the rest of the day- we finally figured it out and when she stopped, the stomach problems went away. Now this mold issue is back again?! I can’t trust a person who moved them from a free and safe building to this one all because of pride (wasn’t given a promotion he felt he was deserved)- the school carries a ton of debt now and the security is also a concern. Many charters go broke and kids are thrown on the street in the middle of the school year because of hasty poor decisions just like this one.

  5. Covering up the truth says:

    The Baptist Church was warned of the mold in this building and the City of Bunnell had extensive studies on the condition before they accepted the building and it was so bad they refused it! If the school was ignorant enough to believe the mold was removed and it was safe without relying on the city’s study or doing one their self they should be held responsible for any sicknesses that result. Mold can be deadly! Seems to me the school was more interested in the money they could bring in rather than the safety of the people they placed in this contaminated building. It makes all the sense to me that the AC was turned down to 60 degrees to keep the mold at bay! Heidi Petito is the spokesperson to spin the truth. There is a reason Craig Cofffey or the County Commissioners are not speaking on the issues themselves. There has been dozens of people who worked in this old courthouse who have suffered with cancer and the county has known about his because they paid many of dollars for their health care!

  6. Amy McCall says:

    Praise the lord, have faith in the lord.

  7. taxpayer $ says:

    $20,000 for the repairs? So, if I recall the rent on this place, this means the county has lost money this year on this rent deal?

  8. Healthy & Happy says:

    Our family is thankful for the school, the pastor, and the administration for all of the effort they put into the children each and every day!! We know that they put our children at the top of their priority list, and would not allow our children to be put into harm’s way. I believe people will always try to put down others, but we can only truly be healthy and happy when we lift others up. So thankful that this lesson is not only taught, but lived out through the lives of the teachers and administrators at First Baptist Christian Academy!! Again, thank you!!

  9. Anonymous says:


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