Published January 23. 2014 4:00AM
New London - A City Council committee approved $250,000 Wednesday to remediate an unoccupied room in the 100-year-old City Hall that is filled with mold.
Last week, Ledge Light Health District, the public health agency for the city and four other towns, inspected City Hall and issued a Public Health Order for the first-floor room where a broken steam pipe had burst inside the wall and mold was growing throughout the room. Humidity levels in the room topped 98 percent during the inspection.
The Finance Committee approved the expenditure Wednesday, breaking it down to $50,000 to repair the broken steam pipe and clean up mold and mildew in the first-floor room, and $200,000 to go toward hiring an architect to come up with a plan to renovate the entire building. Councilor Erica Richardson, a member of the committee, objected to splitting the request into two projects and voted against the appropriation.
At press time, the full council had not yet voted.
During last week's inspection, Ledge Light also outlined additional violations of the public health code in the building, including a 5-foot hole in the ceiling of a vacant second-floor office where a sewer pipe had ruptured overhead; chipped and peeling paint throughout; lack of hot water in some of the bathrooms; and potentially high moisture levels in the basement where documents are stored.
Public Works Director Tim Hanser told the committee that a few years ago, it was estimated that a full renovation to the building would costs about $1.5 million.
"Two hundred thousand dollars should be enough to get us started," he said.
The city has until Friday to submit a "plan of remediation" to Ledge Light and must have the leaking steam pipe repaired and the mold in the first-floor room cleaned by Jan. 31.
In December, public works employees broke down the wooden door to the unoccupied room after a buildup of steam set off an alarm inside. The door was swollen shut by the humidity. Inside, walls were dripping with water, and mold was visible on the walls and over boxes. The room was then sealed shut with plywood until a Ledge Light inspector entered the room Jan. 10.
City Hall workers and visitors had been complaining about a musty smell in the building for months. A steam pipe in the wall inside the room broke about nine months ago, according to workers there. An employee who had been working in the room was relocated and the door was closed. Repairs were never made.