City, union to work together to probe firehouse mold.
SPRINGFIELD - Fire captain and union member Bart McCool says a chance to work with City Hall officials to determine the extent of a firehouse mold problem feels like a breath of fresh air.
Just a few weeks ago, the firefighters union accused the city of not doing enough to clean up a toxic environment it claimed has caused congestion, skin irritation and other health problems among crews at Thurston's Station 1 for years.
Things have since changed, with city officials inviting McCool to help them choose an industrial hygienist and a structural engineer to inspect the building for mold. If the chosen inspectors conclude the firehouse does not pose a health hazard to inhabitants, the union will accept that conclusion, McCool said.
"It's only fair," he said. "We're working together now and everything is going very well."
Until a thorough investigation is complete, all 15 firefighters assigned to the station at 6853 Main St. will continue living in trailers behind the firehouse during their 24-hour shifts.
Crews moved into temporary quarters in September, three months after members of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1395 spent about $800 to have Mold Technologies of Lane County test the building for mold.
The company detected interior water damage throughout the station, and found mold in its attic and main living areas.
The Mold Technologies report prompted 10 current and former firefighters from Station 1 to notify the city that they believe they were exposed to toxic mold while at work. Two filed workers' compensation claims that have not been resolved.
It also led City Hall officials to hire Robertson/Sherwood Architects of Eugene to investigate the situation. The firm, in an October report, said the Thurston station's cedar siding did not need to be removed for a mold search because it is "tight and in good condition." The findings were at odds with a 2000 study by architect Paul Bentley, hired by the city to inspect and report on the state of Springfield's firehouses. Bentley recommended a complete removal of the siding and noted "a mold and dry rot problem in progress" at the station.
Instead of following advice contained in either architect's report, Springfield officials decided to bring in McCool, a union steward, to assist them in devising an acceptable remediation plan for Station 1.
"I think this was what needed to happen," said Ed Black, the city's maintenance manager. "(Thurston firefighters) are the people most impacted by what's going on out there."
Monday will be Springfield's turn to hear the latest on a plan to build an interchange at Interstate 5 and Franklin Boulevard.
After visiting Lane County commissioners and the Eugene City Council earlier this month, state transportation officials will brief the Springfield City Council on the project, in hopes of gathering comments about any of several designs now being considered. A decision to include the interchange project in local and regional transportation plans will be made following a series of open-house events scheduled for next month.
A new interchange would provide more accessibility to downtowns in Eugene and Springfield and reduce traffic congestion on surrounding roads, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Jack Moran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Nov 19, 2005|
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