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Second floor shutdown

WINTON – Mold discovered on the second floor of the new Hertford County Courthouse has prompted county officials to close off that portion of the three-story structure while waiting for the results of an air quality test performed earlier this week.

Hertford County Manager Loria Williams said short-term “fixes” are now in place, but, “we are erring on the side of caution and shutting down Courtrooms A and B as well as the multi-purpose room until we see the test results and develop a plan on how to permanently rectify these problem areas.”

Williams said the reason why the remainder of the courthouse (1st and 3rd floors) is not affected is because they operate on different (and inclusive) HVAC (heating and air conditioning) systems.

“Even though Courtrooms A and B and the multipurpose room each have their individual HVAC units, we have discovered that those 13-ton and 11-ton units were designed to blow out a lot of cold air during the warmer months simply because those rooms are larger and have a bigger occupancy,” Williams said. “When that much cold air is blowing and if it’s not tempered correctly, then that leads to higher humidity levels, thus a higher chance that mold spores can develop.”

She added that the mold was discoloring the walls more in Courtroom B and the multi-purpose room.

“However, we still decided to close Courtroom A due to the potential of mold being there; we postponed all sessions of courts that were scheduled here this week,” Williams noted.

On Monday, Williams said an industrial hygienist performed an air quality test. The results of that test may be ready by as early as today (Thursday).

“We’re waiting on that report and the county will follow the recommendations of the industrial hygienist as to the best course of action we need to take to rectify the problems identified in that report,” Williams stressed.

That report will also provide the county with the information they need on the type of mold.

“There are different types of mold; what type was found on the second floor is not known at this point. If the mold found here is deemed harmful and may have resulted in health related issues, the county will deal with those cases,” Williams said.

“We are holding the building’s architect and mechanical engineer responsible for the design of the HVAC units for the second floor that has caused the problem,” she added. “We feel the mechanical systems were not designed or calibrated properly. At the very least they may have to add additional equipment, at their cost, to temper the humidity levels. We were told that the humidity level indoors should be between 30-to-60 percent; anything above 60 percent could result in mold issues.”

For short-term solutions, Williams said dehumidifiers have been placed on the second floor. Additionally, the county has invested in humidity monitors that are placed at various locations on the second floor, and that the building’s maintenance staff is closely monitoring the HVAC vents in an effort to better control the amount of cold air entering the rooms on the second floor.

“These are just temporary measures,” Williams said. “But we do not want temporary measures; we want those rooms at the proper temperature and humidity. That will take some time as the architect and mechanical engineer may have to redesign the entire HVAC system for the second floor.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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