The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

December 8, 2013

Court moving again

Setting up in city building after more mold found

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

FARRELL — While Court Administrator Pete Morin said he expects the relocation will last about two months, county Commissioner John N. Lechner said officials do not know the extent of the problem or what work might need to be done to make the building habitable. Lechner did not rule out abandoning the building.

“We know there is moisture in one wall that is shared with the vacant side of the building but there also may be slight infiltration from the floor,” he said.

The building at 425 Idaho St. does not present a “mold toxic environment,” based on air quality tests that showed mold spore counts inside the building lower than outside the building, “except in one or two isolated areas,” Lechner said.

One employee has a “VERY high sensitivity to mold and that is the main driver of this issue,” Lechner said in an email.

“I am concerned about the health of employees in that building, as I am with all our employees across the county,” he said.

Leaving the building altogether “is always an option if the remediation costs would run atrociously high or if there was no effective way to permanently fix the underlying causes,” Lechner said.

The court has had a senior judge, William L. Fagley, who was the Greenville district judge for years, presiding since late October, when Judge Ronald E. Antos took a leave of absence. Morin said the building’s condition is part of the reason Antos took the leave, and he would not discuss any other reasons.

“I do not know the reason for Judge Antos’ leave of absence but I do not think it is related to the conditions in the building,” Lechner said.

Antos declined to comment, referring questions to Morin.

At an October gathering at the United Way offices in Hermitage, Antos said he was taking a medical leave of absence due to health problems and that he believed there may be issues in his office that led to his health issues.

Antos will return to his duties Tuesday, when the relocated court at 500 Roemer Blvd. is expected to be up and running, Morin said.

The temporary office will be fully operational, with court staff accepting payments for costs, fines and restitution; criminal complaints; and small-claims civil complaints. The judge will hold hearings in council’s public meeting room.

The court’s telephone numbers will not change.

“It shouldn’t be too bad,” Morin said of the temporary accommodations. “We’ll have the facilities that the staff will need to conduct business.”

County officials are talking with Farrell city officials about what the county will pay for use of the city building, Lechner said.

The court has a discretionary fund built by some fines and costs paid by defendants that can be used to pay the city, Morin said.

The county bought the district court building in 2001, and had to deal with a mold infestation problem shortly after court workers moved in.

In 2007, the court, which serves Farrell, Hermitage, Wheatland, West Middlesex and Shenango Township, was moved to the Farrell city building due to mold, and the county replaced the Idaho Street building’s roof and carpeting, sanitized the building and performed other work.