Portion of courthouse to remain closed | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Portion of courthouse to remain closed

Patrick McCartney and Michael Schneider

Mold spores proved to be the culprit in reports of respiratory problems at the El Dorado County courthouse in Placerville last week that led to the brief closure of the 85-year-old building.

On Monday, county officials said air samples taken last week tested positive for mold in the jury room and judges’ chamber, but mold levels were negligible on the courthouse’s main level.

“The conclusion is the condition of the building is safe,” said Deputy County Counsel Judith Kerr. “However, employees with special sensitivities exposed for extended periods of time may experience symptoms.”

As the number of complaints declined, the county’s employee association withdrew a request for an injunction to close the building, and agreed to lift a temporary restraining order granted by Judge Susan Harlan last week that allowed affected employees to relocate to other offices.

“At this point, they have done the testing and done the cleaning, so we felt better about negotiating with the county,” said Rena Aldrich, a union business agent.

Now, the employees union is seeking an agreement with the county to compensate those employees who fled the building last week by using sick leave.

Despite the clean bill of health, county officials have agreed to keep the courthouse’s upper level closed until construction is completed in about a month. Contractors are improving the heating and air conditioning, at the same time that asbestos workers are removing asbestos insulation.

The upper level was closed on March 27 during construction, and was reopened last Monday. A day later, employees complained of sore throats, itchy eyes, headaches and breathing difficulties, prompting Judge Patrick Riley to clear the building at 2 p.m.

On Thursday, the union went to court seeking an order to close the courthouse. After obtaining a ruling that allowed employees to request relocation, four employees asked to be reassigned on Friday, according to

Alexander Aikman, the courthouse executive officer.

Two of the four people who relocated last week were back to work Monday.

“Today I’m not aware of anyone asking to leave,” Aikman said Tuesday.

After the complaints surfaced last week, contractors changed air filters on each floor and washed down the construction areas.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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