HOBART — A mold remediation company is set to begin work soon at an East Street apartment complex, which could be the first step in responding to a ‘Do Not Occupy’ notice at the property.
Attorney Greg Bouwer said the venture could start this week and it would take around three days to complete the demolition of the basement down to the studs, remove the debris and fix any mold issues found in the facility. of 215 East St.
“They take care of removing damaged building materials,” Bouwer said of the company. “It was related to the water leak that happened recently.”
Bouwer is representing Joe Gore, owner of the apartment which received the ‘Do Not Occupy’ notice last month. The notice resulted in the immediate relocation of 11 families because the building is considered a fire hazard, a public health hazard and violates codes.
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Last Wednesday, the city’s Public Works and Safety Board held a public hearing to receive an update on the building.
Karen Hansen, Hobart’s building code officer, said black mold was visible on fire escapes and back stairs during a city inspection, but she did not see test results from surface in a report provided by representatives of the apartments.
Bouwer said air quality testing was done throughout the building except for one unit where a former resident changed the locks.
“They reflect, especially in all the apartments, that there is no mold amplification, no problems in any of the apartments,” Bouwer said of the tests.
Hansen also said a building permit application from the mold remediation company indicates that the basement is the focus of their work. She said their efforts should include the entire facility.
Bouwer said he would ensure the company took care of the entire building.
“We’re not going to try to do this piecemeal,” he said.
The council authorized future work by the mold remediation company. Bouwer or another representative of the property will return to the board at its September 7 session to review where the work stands.
“We want to take it step by step to get us to the finish line,” said Mayor Brian Snedecor. “I think what we need to focus on right now is…cleaning up the building until we can start allowing (other) contractors in.”
Once the mold remediation company has completed its work on the site, further testing should take place to ensure there are no issues so that further work can take place.
“This first step in mold remediation is paramount,” said City Attorney Heather McCarthy.
Hansen noted that several other issues need to be fixed at the East Street complex. This includes electrical work, resolving sewage backups in multiple units, fire code violations, and HVAC upgrades.
“The existing HVAC in the building was done illegally without a permit,” Hansen said. “Many code violations exist and need to be fixed.”
She also said she had not received test results regarding the possible presence of asbestos in the facility.
Bouwer said he will provide a letter from a state-licensed asbestos inspector stating that if the asbestos is undisturbed, it does not require testing.
Some of the former residents of the East Street flat attended Wednesday’s hearing hoping to learn more about the building and what is planned there.
Lorraine Guillen-Wentz said she felt “appalled” because she thinks Gore took this situation lightly.
She said she and other former residents believed their health was at risk by living in the building.
“The majority of us are represented by counsel, the Ashford (Law) Group,” Guillen-Wentz said.
She said she was able to move to a different place, but there are many who didn’t. She recently heard of one of the displaced residents who was “in tears” because she still hasn’t been granted new housing.
Julie Martinez is another former resident of the East Street apartment who is still looking for another place to live. She said she was living with her family while waiting.
She thinks that there is not enough effort to take care of the building and its impact on the lives of former tenants.
Martinez said she and many other people still have personal belongings at the facility. Bouwer said a sign had been posted giving a number to call to make arrangements to collect items. He also said former tenants can contact his law firm.
Due to the issues listed in the “Do Not Occupy” notice, Martinez and others are unsure what condition their belongings may be in after the building was vacated weeks ago.
“We got lost,” Martinez said. “We don’t know what else to do.”
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