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Rescue squad battles water, mold problems
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Ridgeway Rescue Squad President Darren Lockridge shows an area of one of the squad’s buildings that has water damage and mold. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
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Friday, March 8, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Ridgeway Rescue Squad officers are considering ways to overcome mold and other water problems in one of its buildings.

Darren Lockridge, president of the squad and the Martinsville-Henry County Rescue Squad Association, said the Environmental Hazards Services firm identified 13 types of mold spores in the basement of one of the squad’s buildings.

The two-story building has offices, a living room, bunk rooms (bedrooms), communication facilities and restrooms on the top floor. The kitchen, meeting/training area, restrooms and some storage are downstairs.

The squad’s other building — which is the bay for the squad — is not affected, Lockridge said.

Construction of the damaged building was completed in 1996. Since then, squad members noticed water pooled “every now and then” in the basement floor, he said.

The mold was found after officers created a list of priorities for work at the squad, with the kitchen area identified as the most pressing, Lockridge said.

During work on the kitchen project last summer, the cabinets were taken down, Lockridge said. That is when the mold was found “in the sheetrock, in the floor (tiles), in the ceiling tiles,” insulation and other areas.

“We found some mold upstairs,” with moisture levels at 55 to 60, which is about double the 25 level that is considered normal, Lockridge said. He noted that a thorough cleaning should take care of that problem.

However, squad members do not yet know what will be involved to address the other issues downstairs, he said.

The building is steel, with bricks and cinderblocks on the exterior, Lockridge said. “At least 3 feet of the brick is below grade” on the damaged side of the basement, and there is no moisture barrier between the exterior and interior walls, he said.

Mold also is under the steps, and the aluminum studs are rusted. The trays that support the studs “are all gone. Literally, they crumble in your hands,” Lockridge said, as he picked up a portion of a tray.

Plywood between the aluminum studs and the insulation is gone in many places.

It was so water damaged that “you could reach and grab it with your hand and pull it away like a sponge,” Lockridge said.

Water damage is evident on much of the remaining plywood, along trim areas of many walls, in the utility room and along the bottoms of wooden boxes that encase interior support beams.

A local company worked on some water issues at the building in the past and found that the bottom part of the building had not been sealed, Lockridge said. He added that squad members also are concerned that the steel framing is damaged by years of water seepage.

The water issue will have to be resolved before any work can be done to address the mold, Lockridge said. It is not known where or how the water is getting inside, other than seeping inside during heavy rains.

Engineers recommend working from the outside to the inside of the building to find and fix the water problem, he said.

Other work will be needed, including replacing insulation, sheetrock, ceiling and floor tiles, and ductwork for the heating and air system, he said.

Much of the squad’s furniture that was downstairs and many of the kitchen cabinets have been discarded because of the mold damage, Lockridge said.

Even a U.S. flag that stood on a pole in the corner of the building had to be destroyed because of the mold, he said. All those items will need to be replaced, he added.

Currently, officers are “teetering” between renovating the building — essentially gutting and redoing the entire first floor with remediation work to be done upstairs — or building a new facility, he said.

Either option is expensive, Lockridge said.

He noted that up to $400,000 is estimated for the renovation/remediation work, and between $750,000 to $800,000 is the estimate to demolish and rebuild.

“That’s not something we would be able to pay out of operating costs,” he said.

The company hired to construct the building has been out of business for a decade or more, and Lockridge said the squad’s insurance company has denied paying for the damage three times, mainly because the damage cannot be tied to a single incident.

Last month, Lockridge asked the Henry County Board of Supervisors to allow the county’s annual contribution to be used to help cover the costs of repairs. But even if that is approved, it likely will not be enough.

The county usually gives $95,000 annually for rescue squad equipment purchases.

Some grant opportunities may be available, and the squad may apply for a low-interest loan, Lockridge said. Some local organizations also have offered help.

The squad also is working to develop contingency plans, looking at other property that may be suitable for building and considering other alternatives, he said.

“Right now, we are still kicking it around,” he added.

 

 
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