TRAVERSE CITY — Mold and bat droppings form the focus of a new public committee.
Two Robert P. Griffin Hall of Justice employees said they were sickened by their workplace at the Grand Traverse County commission meeting Wednesday.
“The building is not healthy,” said Sherise Shively, 86th District Court community corrections manager.
“It has affected job satisfaction, morale and job performance. I encourage you to take a tour of the courthouse. Listen to your employees. They want to tell you what’s happening.”
District Court collections employee, Dawn Rector, spoke about what she said were poor conditions in the building located at 282 Washington St.
District Court Administrator Carol Stocking said she attended the board meeting in support of her employees.
“I do think that there’s a general distrust in the employees for the county,” Rector told the commissioners. “Oftentimes we feel we don’t get the information we need unless we push for it, or the information we do get isn’t accurate.”
Shively, who has filed two workman’s compensation claims, said the building — a Presbyterian and a Congregational church before being re-purposed by the county in 2007 — has leaky windows, a basement office that floods in the spring and is home to bats.
Shively and at least two other employees have had to vacate their offices.
“There’s droppings on work surfaces,” Shively said. “We as a staff have been expected to clean them up because our cleaning staff, that the county hires, refuses to come in when there’s bats. And those droppings, I’ve found out, are toxic to humans.”
Joe Seybert, owner of Porcelain Patrol Services, the cleaning company the county contracts with, said he has removed both live and dead bats from the building, but has not seen one in at least a week.
As for bat feces, “If we see it, it does get cleaned up,” Seybert said.
According to the Michigan Department of Health, bat feces can contain the histoplasmosis fungus.
Exposure can cause headaches, a dry cough, muscle pain and in severe cases, difficulty breathing.
Commissioners voted unanimously to create an ad-hoc committee to investigate further.
Commission Chair Rob Hentschel said this is the first time the working conditions inside the 86th District Court have come before the commission.
“What came through to me was they think their complaints are being minimized,” Hentschel said. “I have terrible allergies myself so I feel for them. And I want them to know that the top level officials in the county hear them.”
Hentschel said the facility has mold but it is not black mold –- the most toxic form of the organism. Hentschel and County Administrator Nate Alger toured the building about two weeks ago after court employees had left for the day.
“There are some concerns,” Hentschel said.
Some work has been done to control the mold in the basement of the Hall of Justice.
Director of Facilities Joe Berry said the county has spent about $19,000 on mold testing, air filtration, excavation, removal and replacement of drywall, the re-positioning of sprinkler heads, painting and cleaning.
“As of yesterday we’re building stud walls and in the next two weeks we should have everyone back where they’re supposed to be,” Berry told commissioners.
The ad-hoc committee will include three commissioners — Hentschel, Betsy Coffia and Ron Clous –- and two district court employees. Shively and Stocking have both been invited to serve.