July 27, 2002
The 173rd Judicial District Courtroom is closed because of the worsening mold problem that has been infecting the Henderson County Courthouse for some time.
ATHENS – The 173rd Judicial District Courtroom is closed because of the worsening mold problem that has been infecting the Henderson County Courthouse for some time.
Judge Jack Holland shut down his Athens courtroom last week because, he said, the mold might be a health hazard and he does not want to take any risks.
Holland has been borrowing the 3rd and 392nd district courtrooms in the judicial complex across the street.
Court reporters have also been forced out of their offices, and moved to the judicial complex a few days ago.
“Preliminary results have come in but have not been officially released or reported yet,” said Winston Duke, Henderson County Auditor. “I believe the judge closed the courtroom after talking to the engineers about the preliminary results. The mold has also gotten worse, and the humidity has gotten worse in the last two weeks.”
The Southwest Indoor Environmental Corp. has the testing contract for the building, as well as the Henderson County Clint W. Murchison Memorial Library and the Courthouse Annex.
“Because the mold has gotten worse in the courthouse, the environmental engineer has been called back to do further testing, Duke said.
The mold has spread farther throughout the courthouse, infecting more areas of the building.
“I have an employee that will probably have to be moved out at least temporarily,” Duke said.
The base charge for the testing of all three buildings is expected to be $51,100.
Duke said they expect the final test results back soon.
“We really thought we’d already have the results back by now,” he said. “But I think part of that may be checking out recommendations on alternatives.”
Judge Holland said he and the others would stay relocated until the matter is alleviated.
“I hope it’s soon,” he said. “We may have to get the air conditioning system and the ducts replaced. This would take a long time and be expensive, so we would try to find a temporary solution if this is the problem.”
This is the second time the courthouse has been infested with mold in the last two years.
The books in the law library are dusted with the black mold, even though they were replaced for about $20,000 two years ago.
The money to pay for the testing will come from capital reserves the county has set aside for remodeling the courthouse’s third floor.
“Any cost estimates we’ve come up with have been completely off the cuff,” said Wade McKinney, Precinct 2 commissioner. “The cost could be quite extensive.”
McKinney said the air conditioning system’s chillers are not able to get the water cold enough. These chilled coils are supposed to take the condensed humidity out of the air, but they don’t get cold enough are suspected to be causing most of the problem.
The courthouse air conditioning system is a 50 years old. The courthouse itself was built in 1913 and has gone through extensive modifications over the years.
“It’s just an old building that has its problems,” McKinney said. “The mold problem has been lingering for several years, and when the test results come back, we’re going to address it as expediently as we can. We don’t want to stop work by any means. The courthouse is a public building that’s 100 years old and we want it to work as well as it can.”
The immediate addressing of the building’s problem will come from the reserves the county has built up in the last couple of years, but if it is extensive, budget time is near and the county will look to address it then.
“Judge Holland thought with the amount of traffic that goes through his courtroom – with the public holding meetings for the amount of time that they do – he didn’t feel it appropriate to keep it open,” McKinney said. “I understand the judge’s position and support him.”