Colfax approves air quality study for municipal building

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — Mold and moisture problems in the Colfax Municipal Building basement have prompted the Colfax Village Board to approve air quality testing.

The village board contemplated at the July 22 meeting hiring Servpro of Barron, Dunn and Rusk Counties to clean the basement.

Village board members rejected the idea of hiring Servpro to clean in favor of having air quality testing done first so that an “action plan” can be developed.

Jackie Ponto, village administrator clerk-treasurer, also asked a representative from Service Master to assess the basement.

The person from Service Master said a plan of action would be a good idea because “the problem is bigger than cleaning,” she said.

The Colfax Municipal Building has had moisture problems for a long time, and the basement has not been used for about 15 years.

After the energy efficiency project to install heating, air conditioning and ventilation, it is believed that holes cut in the floor for vents have allowed mold spores to escape into the main floor of the building.

Servpro recommended removing the drywall and carpeting in the north section of the basement and applying a spray product to retard mold growth.

The cost for Servpro’s services would have been $5,736.72.

“Whatever we do, it won’t help,” said Beverly Schauer, village trustee.

“I think it will be money thrown away. The whole basement is moldy,” she said.

“It has been an issue for some time that has not been addressed,” said Mark Halpin, village trustee and acting village president in the absence of Scott Gunnufson.

“In my opinion, we have to start somewhere,” said Rick Johnson, village trustee.

The Colfax Municipal Building is on the state and National Register of Historic Places and cannot be torn down, he noted.

“We have to start somewhere,” agreed Halpin. “We have talked about it, but we have never pulled the trigger.”

Colfax Police Chief Pete Gehring said he had accompanied the representative for Service Master.

“He thought the entire basement was a problem, not just the north side,” Police Chief Gehring said.

The concern is that any company would not know what or how to clean until it was known what was in the air, such mold, fungus, or Radon gas, he noted.

The Service Master representative also said the household dehumidifiers in the basement were inadequate. The air was at 55 percent moisture, but mold grows under those conditions, and the air must contain far less moisture to inhibit mold growth, Police Chief Gehring said.

The Service Master representative recommended industrial-sized dehumidifiers to properly dry out the basement and to prevent the mold from coming back, he said.

The representative for Service Master did not believe the drywall should be removed, but the representative for Servpro recommended removing the drywall, Ponto said.

Support beams under the library floor that required cutting holes in the basement floor also are believed to be making the mold problem worse.

Mold spores in the air are reportedly causing health problems for village employees working in the municipal building and especially in the police department offices.

A motion to hire Servpro to clean the basement for the amount of $5,736.72 failed.

The village board unanimously approved a motion to hire Chuck Dahl of Air MD to begin with air quality testing.