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November 20, 2017

Asbestos, mold threat keeps ag building closed

SEGUIN — Guadalupe County’s Agriculture Building will remain vacant for at least a week or two and possibly longer.

County Judge Larry Jones ordered the building at 210 E. Live Oak St. vacated Friday afternoon after receiving a letter from County Attorney David Willborn warning of the county’s potential exposure to liability because of asbestos and mold problems in the building.

Jones said he had no choice other than to order the building evacuated, and he also called an emergency meeting of commissioners court to discuss the situation.

Before the emergency meeting was convened Monday afternoon, additional chairs were brought into the commissioners courtroom to accommodate the crowd. The group included AgriLife Extension agents, 4-H leaders, 4-H members, master gardeners and others.

Jones said that throughout the court’s budget workshops there was no mention of a need to renovate the ag building until the final budget workshop on Sept. 10 when Commissioner Jim Wolverton suggested allocating $1.5 million in the 2014 budget for renovation of the building.

Besides mentioning the building’s mold problem, Wolverton said someone had fallen through the roof.

Jones said he later determined that a workman’s foot had gone through the roof back in 2011, but the man wasn’t injured and there was no worker’s compensation claim resulting from the incident. The county spent $4,500 to repair the roof, he said.

“The court has gone through several budgets and not fixed that roof properly,” Jones said.

“All we’re doing is being proactive in getting people out of a dangerous building,” Wolverton said.

After learning about the asbestos problem in addition to the presence of mold, Wolverton went to see Willborn, and the letter to Jones followed.

Jones said he received the letter at about 3:30 p.m. Friday.

“Asbestos is not a health issue unless it’s disturbed,” Commissioner Greg Seidenberger said. “The issue is mostly with that meeting room.”

Floor tiles were attached with glue containing asbestos, and some of the tiles in the meeting room are cracked or chipped.

“It’s limited to the meeting room,” said Ricky Vasquez, the county’s building maintenance supervisor.

Vasquez said he placed a call on Friday to a company to evaluate the asbestos problem, and he had not yet heard back from the company about when they can come out. He said he also has called a company about air quality monitoring to evaluate the mold problem.

“When are we going to get the reports back?” Commissioner Kyle Kutscher asked.

Vasquez said he couldn’t answer that until he hears from both companies, but he said he doubted that the reports would be completed this week.

“These conditions have been there for several years,” AgriLife Extension agent Travis Franke told the court. “I’ve been there since July of ‘99, and I’m still breathing.”

“Can it be fixed now?” Commissioner Judy Cope asked. “I don’t believe we have the information at this time to tell anyone whether this is going to be a short-term or a long-term project.”

“I don’t think that building is any different from the courthouse, and we’re not evacuating that,” Jones said. “At 1.5 million dollars, we can build a brand new building for AgriLife.”

Others who addressed commissioners court during the emergency meeting included former County Judge Charlie Willmann, Peggy Jones, Cindy Martin, Ken Winkelmann, Mitchell Moczygemba and Krystal Moczygemba.

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Asbestos, mold threat keeps ag building closed

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