Vol 7 No. 17 - January 17, 2007

Mold to close city hall

Anna Maria city hall will soon be on the move again. The entire staff is preparing to move down the street and into the Island Baptist Church while the building is treated for mold. Here, from left to right are Mayor Fran Barford, City Clerk Alice Baird, Code Enforcement Officer Gerry Rathvon, Deputy Clerk Diane Percycoe and Building Clerk Diane Sacca.

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – It was a double whammy last week for city officials and staff as they learned the mold cleanup at city hall won’t be covered by insurance and that operations are being moved out of the building and into Island Baptist Church.

"We just got word that the leak is not covered," Mayor Fran Barford said of the mold problem that grew after roofers left the city inadequately protected while installing a new roof in August of last year. Rain got into the building and caused the mold to sprout.

"What that means to us as far as the city recouping its damages, it’s left with litigation," Barford told commissioners at a special meeting Jan. 11. In other words, the city will have to file suit to recover its expenses.

The Florida League of Cities, which insures city hall, had indicated there was $10,000 in the city’s policy to cover mold cleanup. However, in a letter to the city, Claims Representative Bonnie Wright stated that the city’s policy doesn’t cover a situation where workmen leave the roof open and exposed to the elements after the workday. The city’s policy only covers damage caused to the exterior of the building by wind or hail or some other weather event.

That leaves the city with no option but to resort to litigation to recover damages from Roof U.S.A., the contractor for the re-roofing job.

Barford told commissioners she thinks the cleanup costs may run from $16,000 to $49,000.

City staff moving out

The city staff is moving from city hall into two rooms at the Island Baptist Church this week, the mayor told commissioners. Commission and other board meetings will be held in commission chambers at Holmes Beach City Hall.

"We have to get the staff out of there," she said. "It’s not good for them to be working in the building. Also, the contractors and the protocol for the cleanup have indicated that if staff works in the building during the cleanup, they will not guarantee their work."

"This is quite serious," Barford said. She asked the commission for permission to contract with SERPRO for remediation of the mold problem.

That cost is expected to run about $16,000, but that could be higher depending on how extensive the mold growth proves to be once everything is uncovered, the mayor said. That amount also does not cover replacing ceiling tiles and drywall that will be removed during the cleanup.

The mayor also asked permission to contract with the church for the two rooms at a cost of $300 a week. She said she expects the staff to be out of the building for at least seven weeks.

A third request was for the authorization to spend up to $5,000 to wire the church and install phone lines and computer equipment at the church.

The commission unanimously authorized the mayor’s request.

Litigation pending

The city has already spent $2,250 to do the mold assessment and $600 to have the removal protocol worked up. If the staff stays in the church for seven weeks, that expense will be $2,100. Add to that the $5,000 cost of moving the equipment one way but not back to city hall, and the costs are already up to $9,950. If the remediation work comes in at $16,000, the expense will be up to almost $25,000.

She said this was a problem she had inherited when she took office, and she would be glad when the problems were settled.

Meanwhile, Barford will work with City Attorney Jim Dye to begin whatever steps are necessary for the city to recover its costs from Roof U.S.A., including any moving and rental expenses incurred as a result of having to vacate the building for the cleanup.

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