Work has begun to renovate a federal courthouse in northeastern Mississippi that has long been plagued by mold.
WTVA-TV reports that interior demolition began last week at the Thomas G. Abernethy Federal Building in Aberdeen.
The United States General Services Administration announced in 2020 that it would spend $24.3 million to fix the problems of the 49-year-old building. It came after the GSA ordered the Tennessee Valley Authority to halt a $12 million replacement of the building’s air conditioning systems when it was found the project would not reduce energy use enough to s self-finance over 20 years.
The judges and clerks left the building in 2017 when it was deemed uninhabitable. The Aberdeen Post Office continued to operate on the ground floor. Some Federal Court registries are temporarily located in Amory.
Aberdeen Mayor Charles Scott said most of the changes would be inside the 1973 building, as the exterior enjoys historic protection. Authorities hope to reopen federal court in April 2024.
City officials feared the court would be permanently relocated from Aberdeen. A separate bankruptcy courthouse on the outskirts of Aberdeen opened in 2005.
Officials credit U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock, normally stationed in Aberdeen, for helping in the fight for funding.
Along with replacing the HVAC system, plans also include repairing the building envelope, improving fire protection, and removing mold and lead paint.
The federal government is also building a new courthouse in Greenville.
The Aberdeen site is not the first federal courthouse in the South to deal with mold issues. In 2019, the government spent more than $31 million to clean up mold and renovate the 20-year-old federal building in Pensacola, Florida, after judges and other workers complained of health issues. In Tampa, the federal court building underwent a similar rehabilitation in 2012.
Other federal courthouses in Florida reported significant mold problems and a federal judge died after suffering respiratory problems in Miami in 2007, according to reports.
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