Trying to Save City Hall - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

12/6/02

Trying to Save City Hall

The city of Abernathy has decided the cheapest way to handle the black mold problem is to destroy city hall and build a new one. But now, just one month before scheduled demolition, one Abernathy woman is trying to save city hall.

Back in April, black mold was discovered in Abernathy's City Hall. Since then, what to do about the so called toxic intruder has been at the center of debate in Abernathy. The city of Abernathy has decided the cheapest way to handle the black mold problem is to destroy city hall and build a new one. But now, just one month before scheduled demolition, one Abernathy woman is trying to save city hall.

In late April Abernathy's City Hall was abandoned. Shut down when an air conditioning company discovered black mold in the air ducts. "We formed a committee, they looked at all the ins and outs and they came back to the council and this was their recommendation: Tear it down and start over," says Abernathy Mayor Bob Burnett. Burnett says the city acted on that recommendation. "At the present time we have let the contract out and they are supposed to start demolition on January 6, 2003," says Burnett.

But one Abernathy woman says demolishing the building is not necessary and she says she has the research to prove it. Lubbock Christian University student and Abernathy resident Jana Grimsley started researching the black mold issue for her English class. "I found that the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Department of Health all advise a clean-up with a solution of 50% bleach and 50% water," says Grimsley.

Grimsley's research has now turned into an all-out campaign to save city hall. She has effectively joined the heated nationwide debate about black mold and the hysteria it is causing. It's controversial because most scientists can't even agree on whether the mold causes serious illnesses. Texas Tech Microbiologist Dr. David Straus acknowledges that findings are inconclusive right now, but he says the "data are coming." University of Texas Immunologist Dr. Gailen Marshall says, "It's being blown horrendously out of proportion."

Some say it's the lawyers and mold cleanup companies eager to make money who are stirring up fear, panic and trouble. Grimsley says she just wants the black mold issue in Abernathy's City Hall to be given more thought, in hopes that they might be able to save a building that is potentially eligible to be designated a national historical site.

"I thought that through this effort we could become more educated about black mold because it's causing our homeowners insurance to skyrocket. They can't keep paying out multi-million dollar settlements for black mold. Especially when it was taken before Congress in July and their findings were inconclusive and non-specific and advised the situation needed more education," says Grimsley.

Mayor Burnett says his town is about evenly split on the issue, and building a new city hall is the cheaper and more health conscious way to go. "We had bids that were over $1-million to fix the old city hall, and we're getting a new one for $600,000," says Burnett.

This coming Monday, December 9th, Jana Grimsley will present her research to the Abernathy City Council. If you would like to attend the meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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