Mold at New PD

Unfinished roof and rain push back move-in date two months
By kristen munson and serdar tumgoren Staff Writers

Gilroy – Heavy rainfall this winter and an unfinished rooftop combined to cause moldy conditions at the new C.J. Laizure Police Station. City officials say they aren’t paying for the removal and replacement of the moldy sheet rock and that contractor SJ Amoroso Construction is on the hook.

The recent snag has pushed back the move-in date for police another two months to November, but when the abatement is complete later this week the building will be safe for employees, city officials said.

“We’re paying millions of dollars for a new building – we’re not going to put up with one mold spore,” said Assistant Police Chief Lanny Brown, co-construction manager for the project. “The last thing that we want to happen is what happened in the San Martin courthouse,” citing the 1999 closure of the 4-year-old $7.5 million government building due to mold.

After mold and water-damaged sheet rock was discovered in January, officials contacted industrial hygienists to examine the site and hired environmental engineers to perform tests.

“As soon as it was evident that we had mold we called in the hygienists,” said Bill Headley, facilities and parks manager. “To us, this is like buying a new car. We want to make sure we’re not driving it off the lot with old tires. I don’t want anybody thinking we’re getting anything less than a brand new facility.”

The 48,900-square-foot, $26.2 million facility was on pace to open in September after a $100,000 mistake in the roof was discovered late last October. Construction was delayed by a month. City officials have said SJ Amoroso will foot the bill for the blunder.

Mold was discovered on portions of all four exterior walls with the north wall hit the hardest, Brown said.

A report from Innovative Technical Solutions, Inc., the engineering firm who performed the mold tests in March, recommended that any wallboard impacted by mold be replaced and remediation performed on plastered walls that did not exhibit mold growth.

The report allowed city officials the ammunition to go back to the contractor to have the material replaced, Headley said.

“(It was) confirming what we already knew was there,” he said. “So we can hold (Amoroso) accountable and say that there was an issue. We’re not taking the building until it’s absolutely replaced.”

According to Headley, leaks around the perimeter from the unfinished portions of the roof, and failure to properly seal the walls before construction workers left for Christmas break caused a perfect environment for mold to grow once winter storms struck.

On Jan. 5, Assistant Chief Brown was contacted to come check out the site – where he observed visible water damage and a mold growing on some of the panels.

“The first question I asked is – is there any health hazards to workers?” he said.

Exposure to some forms of mold can cause asthma and respiratory problems for individuals allergic to the spores.

Most of the water damage occurred on the outside of the building, however, there was minor damage to the inside, Brown said.

After all damaged panels are replaced, areas where there are no organic compounds for mold to feed on will be wiped down with disinfectant solutions.

The city has set a hard line with Amoroso regarding responsibility for the latest snag, Brown said.

“They’re under contractual duty to protect their work,” he said. “We’ve made it clear to them that it’s on them. Right now they are behaving very responsibly … We are looking at this as a zero cost to us.”

However, Brown admitted there is the possibility that Amoroso officials could argue that a portion of the cost, or the total cost be split.

SJ Amoroso project manager and project superintendent’s both declined to comment Thursday, citing company policy.

All of the sheet rock panels on the north wall was replaced, Headley said. Portions of the other three were replaced with material that is more waterproof.

“Anything that was water damaged was removed and replaced. As far as I’m concerned it’s a done deal,” he said. “It was a protection of work issue. Certainly if the roof was completed earlier it would have helped.”

The cost of removing and replacing the panels is unknown at this point.

While the setbacks are frustrating, Brown does not believe the problems are the result of any malice on the part of the contractors.

“I have this wish and desire things would have gone perfectly to plan,” he said. “But what I learned in law enforcement – the moment you start implementing your very best plan, your plan starts changing.”