Monticello, PA — The Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce has moved out of its Broadway office because its boardroom has been infested with black mold for more than a year, chamber officials said.
“We had several floods in the office and the landlord never did the proper repairs, so we ended up with some serious black mold,” Chamber CEO Terri Ward said.
The chamber began moving out of the former Rialto Theater building at 452 Broadway on Thursday. Its employees have temporarily moved in with the Partnership for Economic Development, in Bridgeville. Chamber officials said the building’s pipes had burst five times since they moved there in December 2006. The bathroom ceiling caved in after one broken-pipe incident. The accumulated moisture eventually became mold that grew on the floors and walls.
The chamber tested the mold twice and found that it was black mold, Ward said. “The building itself is not safe,” said Susan Hamlin, chairman of the chamber. “The village building inspector told us to vacate the premises.”
Ward and Hamlin said they alerted the building’s owner, Julie Chen, but she was not responsive. Ward said Chen blamed the chamber for the bursting pipes and did nothing to fix them. According to one of her employees, Chen is in Taiwan until Oct. 1 and is unable to be reached.
Chen sold the building in late August to Martin Joseph, a Long Island developer who plans to rehab three buildings and a vacant lot on Broadway, including the old Rialto Theater, to create new offices and lofts.
Village Manager John Barbarite said Joseph will present renderings to the Village Planning Board on Sept. 23.
The building inspector, Sue Flora, said Joseph did not know about the mold problem and promised to fix the building. He wants to keep the chamber as a tenant, he told Flora. Joseph did not return calls on Friday.
The chamber did not move out sooner, because it worried about the legal repercussion of breaking its lease, which has three years remaining. Ward said the move to Bridgeville is temporary. “We’re definitely going to try to be on Broadway,” she said. “We get a lot of visibility and foot traffic there.”