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Morgan County employees evicted by mold in courthouse

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — At least five Morgan County courthouse employees have been temporarily evicted from their offices after high levels of mold and radon were detected in two county buildings.

Under doctors’ orders to stay away from the buildings, three employees sat in lawn chairs Monday outside of the county’s administration building.

“Well, we have been told that we need to report to the front of the building,” said Carrie Martin. “For the majority of the day on Friday I stood out here.”

“We could be doing work if work was brought out to us,” said Martin, who mentioned the mold evicted her and co-worker from their office in the microfilm office in the basement of the county courthouse.

“It’s very frustrating because that’s what we are here to do – to do our jobs,” Martin said.

Recent lab tests that found high levels of black mold in the walls at the county’s courthouse.

While air tests were found to be acceptable, high levels of mold were detected in the air of the attic of the courthouse, the tests show.

But Dr. Dianna Catt, a microbiologist hired by the county, told I-Team 8 Monday she could not find the source of the growth, which is why she is recommending the courthouse’s air ducts be cleaned.

That has created another delay in removing the mold, County Attorney Rodric Bray said.

Contractors who had already submitted bids to do the mold remediation are now being asked to come back this week or next to given updated quotes.

“It’s urgent and frustrating. We are trying to fix this as quickly as possible because of the productivity loss, and we need to keep in the front of our minds the health of our employees,” Bray said.

There are now growing concerns about high radon levels detected in both the courthouse and the administration building, County Attorney Rodric Bray told I-Team 8.

Further tests are needed, Bray said, and it could be at least two weeks before those are conducted, he said.

This is not how Michelle Asher envisioned her Monday.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “We have an incredibly busy week this week with (child support), as we do every week.”

Asher, a second deputy in the county’s child support office, said there have been long-standing issues with mold and the county’s courthouse.

“Our concern is for our health. We are trying to do our job, you can’t help but understand that this is taking away from the ability to do the job,” Asher said.

In 2004, the county was cited by the U.S. Department of Labor because of mold issues, I-Team 8 learned through Indiana’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Complaints about the mold were filed with same office in March of this year. The Indiana Department of Health tested the air in the courthouse earlier this year but found nothing.

It was only after the county hired Monrovia-based Mold Diagnostics that tests revealed high concentrations of black mold in some areas.

But years before that, in 2008, WISH-TV chronicled how a storm damaged the roof of the courthouse and led to water entering the building.

In 2013, county employees said leaking pipes inside the building caused additional water damage they believe contributed to the mold problem.

The station’s archives also show that employees had complained in the past about foul odors, headaches and feeling poorly.

“We are going to keep them working as best we can and make them as productive as we can. But we can’t spend tens of thousands of dollars running computer and phone line equipment it’s going to take two or three weeks at the very quickest to get those in,” Bray said.

Rather than do that, Bray said, they are working on a plan to get rid of the mold and test again for radon.

As of 5:30 p.m Monday, Bray sent an updated email to I-Team 8 stating that county employees who have health concerns will be temporarily moved to the county’s 911 center.

There is still not timetable to remove the mold.

I-Team 8 attempted to take the concerns of county employees to County Commissioner Norman Voyles Monday.

After identifying himself, Voyles said: “I don’t have anything else to say to you. You can call the county attorney. You can take your camera and leave.”

He refused to answer follow-up questions and walked out of his office.