August 24, 2015
The Ellettsville, Indiana, Town Council met for a work session on Monday, August 24, 2015, at the Fire Department Training and Conference Room. Scott Oldham called the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m.
Members present were Scott Oldham, President; Scott Thomas, Vice President; Dianna Bastin, David Drake and Kevin Farris. Sandra Hash, Clerk-Treasurer, Jim Davis, Town Manager, Darla Brown, Town Attorney and Jeff Farmer, Ellettsville Utilities were also present.
Jim Davis, Town Manager, presented a summary of the events as they unfolded. On Friday, August 14, 2015, Mike Farmer contacted him about mold issues at Eagles Landing. Mr. Farmer advised him of a letter signed by the Utilities office and the Clerk-Treasurer complaining about the mold issues at Eagles Landing. On August 17, 2015, he looked at Eagles Landing and did find some issues with mold, however, he couldn’t get in all of the rooms. He received a call from Scott Oldham on August 18, 2015, advising the Ellettsville History Museum also had mold issues. Also, on August 18, 2015, he, Mike Farmer and Scott Oldham discussed options with the main concern being a possible health risk to the employees of Town Hall. He and Mike Farmer discussed hiring someone to do testing on the mold which would cost approximately $1,000 and temporarily relocating. They looked at the TRICO building on First Street for about the same cost but the square footage was about half of what they have at Eagles Landing. Staff from the Clerk-Treasurer’s and Utilities office agreed the space would be cramped. He contacted Beth Robinson and made her aware of the issue. Ms. Robinson told him she was not aware of any problems with mold in Eagles Landing. He told her there was a problem which he saw and he took a few photos. He explained to Ms. Robinson this would undoubtedly come up in a public meeting, that Town Council would have to make a decision on moving to a new location and that the meeting would take place on August 24, 2015. Ms. Robinson was concerned about this issue being discussed in a public forum. He assured her that no one, including Town Council members, had any desire to cause any undue harm or bad publicity but there were issues brought forward and they feel they need to do something. On August 19, 2015, he contacted Tom Orman at Smith Pike Crossing about possible space. Mr. Orman showed them a space previously occupied by Smithville Telephone Company with approximately 3,000 square feet. Mr. Orman was very cooperative and wanted to help the Town. Currently, the Town pays rent of $1,255 a month for three offices at Eagles Landing. Mr. Orman said he would match that price. He and Mike Farmer informed Mr. Orman this would be a temporary move while a new Town Hall is being built and would depend on the Town Council’s decision on August 24, 2015. Mr. Orman was very amenable to renting to the Town for however long it is needed. After several conversations with Scott Oldham, on August 20, 2015, they came to the conclusion they should start on a temporary move. On August 19, 2015, he informed the other Town Council members of what had transpired by email. Further, on August 17, 2015, he had sent an email notifying them of the issue. On August 20, 2015, Mike Farmer had contacted a restoration company about cleaning items as they were removed from Town Hall but they were unavailable for two weeks. There was discussion about cleaning everything but there was no evidence of mold in any of the three rooms rented by the Town. It was decided to remove the items not used on a daily basis to the blue building and wipe them down. During this process, on either August 19, 2015, or August 20, 2015, after he had contacted Ms. Robinson he also contacted the Town Attorney, Darla Brown and advised her of the situation. He advised Ms. Brown he and Scott Oldham’s main concern was the staff, Eagles Landing and what would be said to the public. He had asked Ms. Brown to give some thought about statements to the newspaper and the public so as not to be detrimental to Eagles Landing. They had three to four conversations about the same. He and Mr. Oldham had approximately 10 conversations, he and Mike Farmer had approximately 14 conversations and three conversations with Beth Robinson over four days.
Scott Oldham advised Ms. Robinson has been very responsive to anyone who has discussed this with her, was very accommodating during the move into Eagles Landing and is very concerned about this. Mr. Davis has prepared a set of contingencies which range from staying in Eagles Landing to moving to a different location until Town Hall is built. They have acted out of an abundance of caution based on health concerns. He understands there is mold everywhere, in the air and in the home. Sometimes it needs to be abated and sometimes it doesn’t. Mr. Davis has been in contact with the Monroe County Health Department three or four times. He asked Mr. Davis not to do any testing at this time until the Town Council has a chance to meet because it will be fairly expensive. He doesn’t know if it is the Town’s duty to do the testing when they don’t own the building. Preparations were made for the Town to remain operational. They could’ve moved out to the sewer plant for a day or two, so there would be an operational work station. This was out of an abundance of caution because they didn’t know what was going to happen, what they would learn, what the response would be as to finding a location and how the clean-up was going to go. The Town Council needs to decide how they want to move forward.
Jeff Farmer, Ellettsville Utilities, explained he got involved because of health issues for Town employees. Besides the mold, the building has become unsanitary. There have been issues with the bathrooms, hallways being swept and grass not being mowed. It doesn’t meet the Town’s standards. There is a dumpster located outside of the door that constantly smells and has broken glass around it. Parking is also an issue. Take the mold out of the issue and the building is not a good place. They hate to have to move and it is not something they want to do. They thought they were in a good spot and that is not so. He doesn’t know much about mold other than what he has read. The employees are having symptoms they wouldn’t otherwise have such as migraine headaches, sore throats, eye problems and coughing. His opinion is they need to make a permanent move until Town Hall is built and he thinks the employees would agree with this. He appreciates where they have been but he doesn’t think they need to be there any longer. Ms. Hash agrees with Jeff Farmer. Fortunately, she and her office staff haven’t had the health issues but she sympathizes with those who have.
Jim Davis spoke with Penny Caudill of the Monroe County Health Department on August 19, 2015. Ms. Caudill informed him about mold and how it works. Black and green mold are not always dangerous but white mold is sometimes dangerous and black mold is sometimes dangerous but until it is tested they will never know whether it is dangerous or not. Ms. Caudill advised she had already been contacted about the mold when he spoke with her.
Darla Brown, Town Attorney, explained the Town is leasing two offices month-to-month through the end of August. One office has a lease that ends in January 2016. The remaining amount due on that lease is $1,525. She has not had an opportunity to discuss this with Ms. Robinson or her attorney.
Scott Thomas appreciates the detail. It is his understanding they are having this meeting to determine if they’re going to relocate. Mr. Oldham thinks they will determine the best course of action the Town Council wants to follow. No matter what they do, they have responsibilities to moving, not moving, abating and health concerns. This is why he asked Mr. Davis to find a temporary place to minimally operate until this meeting. Mr. Thomas confirmed a decision has not been made prior to this meeting. Mr. Oldham stated the only thing he asked them to do was establish some place for staff to go so they can be minimally operational until a decision could be made. Mr. Thomas asked if this was the sewer plant. Mr. Davis explained they talked about the Fire or Police Department. Mr. Oldham discussed this with Mike Farmer and Jeff Farmer about going to the sewer plant and setting up a telephone. Mr. Davis noted there would be a problem with temporarily setting desks up in the Fire Department because of meetings and the Police Department wouldn’t have the space. Mr. Oldham asked if the sewer plant is not an option. Mr. Davis answered it is nice and clean but noisy. Mr. Farmer added there isn’t sufficient space for the desks. Mr. Davis said when the Fire and Police Departments were ruled out they focused on where they could go and it not cost any more money. It seemed like Smith Pike Crossing was the place to go.
David Drake asked if the problems can or can’t be fixed before he decides whether or not they need to move. They have an obligation to allow them to fix the problems before deciding to relocate. Mr. Farris said whatever they decide to do, all of it is a temporary fix. Eventually, they’ll move down the road to Maple Grove. All things being equal in a temporary fix, what is most conducive to the employees doing their day-to-day business? Mr. Davis remarked he went to Town Hall at Eagles Landing today to find out what has been removed. It will take them as long to put the rooms back together as to move the rest of the offices out. Approximately 50% of the offices have been removed to the Blue Building for cleaning. Mr. Farris asked who is doing the moving. Mr. Davis replied the Utilities and Street Departments. Mr. Thomas said he wants what is best for the employees. He knows some employees want to go and others don’t. They have a responsibility to do what is right for the rental property. Mr. Farmer has mentioned six to eight concerns with the building. He hopes Mr. Farmer has conveyed those to the owner to make sure they get a chance to fix them for the other tenants should the Town decide to leave. His problem with this is he thought the decision was going to be made at this meeting. On Friday, he went to Smith Pike Crossing and went inside the facility they’re thinking about renting and there were three Utility employees patching and painting walls to prepare for the move on Tuesday. He told the employees he thought they were working on waterline breaks and they told him they were pulled off of it to start this move. This upset him because they’re to vote on this as a Council but somewhere a decision was made. He spoke to the owners of the current and future properties and he would like for the Town Council to follow the procedures they’re supposed to follow. They’ve had a prior conversation about not putting the cart before the horse and not tearing down walls and counters. Then the next day he finds a crew has been pulled off of a waterline problem to paint and prepare to move into a space. Mr. Davis doesn’t know anything about a waterline break.
Jeff Farmer clarified there were two water main breaks within about six feet of each other on Ritter and Sale Streets. It was an old line that was on the list to be replaced so they made the decision to replace about 350’ of the line. It is not an emergency repair. They didn’t pull anyone off of the waterline to paint the walls. Smithville Telephone used to be in the same space and there were some cubicles that weren’t painted behind them. It took less than a gallon of paint to make them look good and then they swept the floors just in case. They were given the okay and there was some miscommunication. They thought it was okay to move into the facility temporarily. They didn’t want to be out of business for two weeks again. He made arrangements to meet the IT people from Smithville Telephone to find out if it the space was sufficient. Mr. Orman moved some items out of their way and they spent approximately one hour sweeping the floors. They may have gotten ahead of the plan but sometimes in an emergency you do that. They certainly weren’t trying to put the cart in front of the horse and they didn’t pull employees off of a water main break to do this.
Dianna Bastin saw the Utility employees working at Sale and Ritter Streets and she stopped. They were actually cleaning some of the mud, gravel and anything else caused by the breaks for the property owners. They were doing their best to reconcile the property. She asked the employees what they were doing and they said they were working on the break. The break was already fixed and they put down mulch but they used that terminology. If that’s the same thing that happened she can see where it might confuse someone. Mr. Oldham asked if they had anything anywhere. Mr. Farmer replied they do not have any furniture in that building. All of the furniture they moved is in a U-Haul and in trailers at the Blue Building.
Beth Robinson, Eagles Landing, remarked it was said this was an emergency situation. Jim Davis told her this was discovered on Friday, August 14, 2015, but she did not get a call until the afternoon of Tuesday, August 18, 2015, that this was an emergency. Why was she not notified? They discovered the problem and didn’t call the landlord. She is very accessible. She wasn’t called until after the Town was already looking for places to relocate. They never gave her an opportunity to see the problem, let alone take care of it. A breaker had tripped in a room the tenant had not been in. She reset the breaker and now the air conditioner works. The previous tenant had two windows cracked open and their air conditioner was not working and this is what facilitated the problem. It is not an ongoing problem within the building, it is specific to what happened in the room. In another room, couches were in front of the ventilation. The Health Department confirmed the same and it has now been taken care of. They started a cleanup in that room and she has calls into a couple of companies for them to come in, finish and do some testing. They will take care of the problem whether the Town stays or not. Her problem is the Town did not follow a professional procedure in notifying her of the problem and letting it create a three ring circus. All she asks for is professional courtesy and whatever the Town decides to do is fine. Either way they will be testing and taking care of their tenants. Mr. Oldham asked when they will do the testing. Ms. Robinson said they have calls in to a couple of places and they need to verify that things are cleaned up first and then they will test it. Mr. Oldham asked if she had a timeline. Ms. Robinson said she does not have a timeframe and has only had three business days to work on it. She had to take care of other tenants and get someone to clean it up. They’re working on it but she is farther behind because the Town did not notify her for several days.
Scott Oldham asked how long it took to have the old Town Hall tested before they got the results. Mr. Farmer said they had dehumidifiers in the building for a couple of weeks and the testing came about afterwards. It was Mr. Farmer’s understanding if the Town would have done the testing in Eagles Landing they would’ve known it in two or three days.
Brian Mobley confirmed Jim Davis went into the three rooms and they did not have mold. Mr. Davis replied he went into the Clerk-Treasurer’s and Utilities offices and he didn’t see any visible mold. Mr. Mobley asked Ms. Hash if she or her staff have missed any days of work. Ms. Hash replied no. Mr. Mobley went to school, knows what is there and understands it but they need to evaluate it first. What is wrong with the old Town Hall? Does it have mold? Mr. Davis replied not that they know of. Mr. Mobley asked why not repair it temporarily? It has to be repaired anyway if they’re going to rent it out for meetings. Why not go ahead and move Town Hall there temporarily until they move on top of the hill? What did the move from Town Hall to Eagles Landing cost the taxpayers? It was estimated to be $10,000. Even though it is labor it is his money. So, Utilities is painting, it is his money. Before a decision is made, they need to look and see where the money is going to. If they move again, it is another $10,000. So, they took $20,000 from the taxpayers. Ms. Hash doesn’t think it will cost that much to move again. They had to do quite a bit of work to get the rooms ready in Eagles Landing whereas this new space is more move-in ready and all it needed was a little cleaning. They will have to pay to have the telephone service and security system moved. Mr. Mobley commented Utilities and Street Departments could be working on things for the community rather than moving offices. They need to look at the money. There are a lot of different options and maybe they need an Executive Session to go over them.
Becky Wines explained when they moved to Eagles Landing they thought it was a temporary move until they found a permanent place. They’ve now found a permanent place but it will be another one to two years until they will be able to move into the building. A lot of her issues are the parking for elderly customers. If they park in front of the building they can’t come up the front steps and when they park on the west end there is very little parking available. She has also been concerned about maintenance issues in the restroom which she had previously discussed with Beth Robinson. There have been periods of time when it was not sanitary. When they first moved in she cleaned the ladies restroom regularly. Sometimes of a morning there would be things that were not pleasant in the restroom and she would clean it so the other employees and customers did not have to deal with it. There were times she would call Ms. Robinson and tell her she couldn’t clean up something and she would have someone clean it. The floors get mopped down the main hallway. A lot of the entrances are very unsightly and she doesn’t think it is a good representation for the Town. She understand there are problems with old buildings. The employees do have health problems and it is uncertain whether or not they’re attributable to the building. It is an issue she worries about.
Beth Robinson said the Town knew what the building was when they leased it. They have replaced all of the toilets in the restrooms, have done maintenance and has someone come in every day to check them. Those things have been addressed. She is not sure what the other concerns were because they have taken care of those items. None of those have anything to do with the issue at this meeting.
Shawn Meadows addressed the cleanliness issue. There has been a cup of chewed-up, spit-out, sunflower seeds at the front entrance underneath the broken bench that says “Do Not Sit” since last summer so it is a cleanliness issue. It has never been moved. Yes, the toilets were replaced, however, they overflow every day and when she called to address it she was told that a new toilet was put in with a stronger flush so it shouldn’t happen. It is happening, and a wet floor sign was put down in the bathroom. She, personally, has had a migraine every week since two months after moving into the building. She has a past history of migraines for which she takes medication on a daily basis to keep them at a minimum which they had been until moving into the building. Her timesheets will speak for themselves as she is out two or three times a month with migraines. The cleanliness isn’t taken care of.
Jeff Farmer had hoped this wouldn’t go where it did. He thought when they moved in they would be there until they built a new Town Hall. To address Mr. Mobley’s concern about going to the old Town Hall, it obviously has potential to flood again, it is not anywhere near move in ready and he doesn’t think their office should be closed that long. He thinks they have the ability to go to the former Smithville space and go right to work. The office could be up and running by Wednesday. The easiest and less cumbersome move for them would be to move to the 3,000 square feet ready to move in building and get back to work. The Clerk-Treasurer told him she agrees. He doesn’t think there are any employees who want to stay in the building. Mr. Thomas has seen a Utilities’ employee in the building every time he has gone in. He has seen the Clerk-Treasurer’s staff in there and they did not express an interest to leave. Mr. Farmer advised their staff was there minimal hours because they had to get the billing out which they appreciated. In fact, he told them to leave if they didn’t feel safe. They tell all employees to work where they feel safe. It will not cost a lot to move. They will probably have $1,000 in IT costs, $300 for a U-Haul, minimal costs for paint and cleaning supplies and approximately $200 to Smithville for moving equipment. It is his opinion the health of the employees and the fact they need to get back to work so they can conduct their daily business is important. Mr. Farris asked if the customers’ bills are due what is the grace period. Mr. Farmer said they continued to make themselves available to the customers and they can pay online. They have tried not to interrupt service. The reading cycle was finished on August 21, 2015 and the next won’t start until September 1, 2015.
Scott Oldham asked Mr. Davis for his recommendation. Mr. Davis explained if they decide to move back in and hook everything up, they’re basically telling the employees they don’t care about their health and sense. If they move out they’re telling Ms. Robinson they don’t like her building and are leaving. If he had to make the call based on everything he knows, it would be better on everybody if they made the move to Smith Pike Crossing. It’s his opinion it will take as long to move back in as it takes to move.
Scott Thomas noted the old Town Hall has set vacant for one year and nine months and it hasn’t taken water since then. All of their equipment is at the Blue Building that takes on water when it floods. What is the time frame to make the old Town Hall usable and, therefore, not pay anything in rent beyond the four months they have left on a lease? This addresses the parking issue and a lot of the concerns. It is a stop gap measure. They’re moving to a nice place. They’ve got to fix it anyway and they’re not under a lease with anybody. So, they still have the availability to use their asset. What is the time frame it would take to get in there? Mr. Davis replied it would probably take two weeks to move back into it. The next thing to consider are the employees whom have to move everything in it and back upstairs. Moving to Smith Pike Crossing is an easy move because it is on ground level. Ms. Wines commented there would be some costs involved in that move. All of the tiles and everything else were pulled up. When you walk through the building, you stick to the floor. Mr. Thomas said if they’re looking at options, he doesn’t know if they’ll be able to take the walls and countertops with them but why don’t they construct their asset and use it? Mr. Davis said the employees were cramped in the old Town Hall and the Clerk-Treasurer’s office was inconvenient for customers. Whereas, the Smithville space is ground level.
Scott Oldham asked Ms. Hash for her recommendation. Ms. Hash replied the rooms at Eagles Landing, after the Town fixed them up, were really nice. The common areas have been a problem since the first day and the grounds are looking poorly. The old Town Hall, as it stands now, would take a little while to move back into it. She has been to the old Smithville space and they could move in without a lot of work. The thrifty side of her says maybe if they fix the Old Town Hall and move back in they would save the rent money. Then the cautious side of her says as sure they move back in they will get a 5” or 8” rain. For two years in a row they got that much rain and they have been lucky there hasn’t been a flood since they moved out. By moving, they will be out a little extra expense and the rent will be the same. That expense and the rent won’t cost as much as what it would cost to refurbish the old Town Hall. Although she was told she and her staff didn’t have to work, they did because they didn’t have health issues were comfortable staying to do the work that needed to be done. The disconnect notices for Utilities have been mailed and the people who are conscientious about those will start to panic because they don’t know for sure their bill has been paid. So, there is a time issue. There are so many variables. The Utilities staff has gone through two floods and they are not anxious for that to happen again. The Smithville space is clean, big enough and the same monthly price. She has been alerted to serious health issues that could happen and they don’t want to jeopardize the employees and the old Town Hall is not move in ready. They have prepared for a move, found a suitable location and have the space to do it. With everything the way it is they should move to the new location at Smith Pike Crossing.
Elizabeth Dorman is a concerned citizen and wants to understand why they can’t try to have the best of both worlds. They haven’t given Ms. Robinson the opportunity to prove mold is present. Ms. Robinson has stated she has contacted companies. Someone has said they can move and be there by Wednesday. Mr. Davis has said they can rent by the hour so they can do that. Then once they find out whether or not there is any mold, they can move back and honor their contract. Everything she has heard from the Utilities staff is that they focus more on what they don’t like about the building and not about the mold. It sounds as if they’re unhappy being in the building. She doesn’t want any health issues going on and it is a major concern. But do they have a doctor note that states there is mold? If they give the Town the opportunity to show it is mold then they need to give Ms. Robinson the opportunity to prove the same. Ms. Hash advised the office at question has been open today and the mold has been cleaned off of the wall and they have dehumidifiers running. The mold closest to their offices has been abated.
Brian Mobley understands the old Town Hall will take two weeks to finish. On the other hand, he owns two business downtown and basically they’re telling him to load up and forget it because it is going to flood and he will lose everything again. This is the image they’re giving the citizens of Ellettsville. Why should he go back and redo his businesses for which he has paid thousands of dollars when the Town is telling him they’re not going to move down there or spend two weeks redoing Town Hall. Hopefully, they can pass something to get the Town Hall done within two weeks. He would like to see somebody in there. Ms. Hash stated she was certainly not saying this. It has flooded at least four times since she has worked there and it gets worse every time. The last time was horribly bad. Mr. Mobley stated the Town Council needs to consider the area green space and they’ll leave when the Town pays to tear it all down.
Warren Hoobyar explained seven years ago when Don Mullendore had a gun shop in the basement of Eagles Landing he had a vault which was original to the school. They discovered black mold in the vault seven years ago. Black mold does not go away so he doesn’t think it’s gotten any better.
Beth Robinson stated there is not a vault in Eagles Landing.
Scott Oldham adjourned the meeting at 6:33 p.m.