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Building air is bad, but no fix is in sight

City officials are putting off plans for major renovations of the Utilities Building, where employees have complained of poor air quality.

Temporary air conditioning and an air filtering device called an ozone generator will have to suffice until officials decide on permanent quarters for city employees, city commissioners said Monday.

"Until we finalize plans for City Hall, it's premature to spend the money we're talking about," said Commissioner Art Deegan.

Commissioner Fred Thomas and Mayor Rita Garvey agreed.

City Manager Michael Wright had recommended to commissioners that the building's air-conditioning system be replaced and asbestos in the ceiling be removed. The work would have been part of a plan to spend $257,000 renovating parts of the building.

Consultants reported that mold and fungus has been growing in the air-conditioning system and that the fresh air intake inlet is dirty. Consultants also cited resin from cigarette smoke as a cause for poor air quality.

Employees had complained that bad air has caused eye and respiratory irritation.

The consultant's report points out the cause of poor air quality and location of asbestos, but didn't blame asbestos for the health problems.

To deal with the bad air, city officials recently shut off the air conditioning and installed portable air conditioners and fans, officials said. Thomas loaned the city the ozone generator.

Wright told commissioners that the building hadn't been maintained as well as it could have been because they had planned to move employees elsewhere.

Officials over the past year had planned to consolidate operations in one building _ either in the former SunBank building downtown or in a new City Hall on the current site. But city commissioners recently killed those plans and are considering renovating the City Hall Annex on Cleveland Street.

Commissioners are waiting for estimates on renovating the annex before deciding.

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