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Judge: fix courthouse SAFETY AN ISSUEComplaints prompt action
Judge Scott orders immediate City Council action on courtroom health concerns

 Scott
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Date published: 6/20/2007

BY REBECCA BLATT and EMILY BATTLE

PDF: Click here to read the court order.

  • EMILY'S BLOG: What's next for the city courts?

    Circuit Court Judge John W. Scott Jr. ordered Fredericksburg City Council yesterday to immediately fix what he says is an unsafe courthouse.

    Scott's order directed the council to move the courthouse staff to a new location until the building is repaired.

    It requires the city to remove all hazardous conditions in the courthouse, and specifically mentions mold.

    Mayor Tom Tomzak said he was surprised by the order. He said he felt the city had been taking the mold issue seriously. The trouble is, he said, the city has not been able to determine what is causing the problem.

    "We are looking for something we can act on," said Tomzak, a physician. "The public should be aware that we have not found anything specific that can be identified as a pathogen, and if we do, we will fully disseminate that."

    The court order followed a presentation Circuit Court Clerk Sharron Mitchell made to City Council last week.

    Mitchell said court employees experience rashes, hives, eye infections, sinus problems and nausea while working in the courthouse.

    'we can't function'

    "We have employees in this court who get sick every week, and we can't function that way," Scott said.

    In addition, city officials said last week that air quality tests in the courthouse showed that mold levels were higher in the jury room than in the outside air, leading them to close the jury room.

    But Fredericksburg Public Facilities Director Bob Antozzi said this week that the mold levels found in the jury room remain in a safe range and that the city closed the jury room as a precaution.

    "It's more of a public- relations thing," Antozzi explained. "We just want the users of the jury room not to have any questions about what's going on in there even though some people I've talked with said this doesn't mean that you should shut the jury room down."

    Tests were preliminary

    But Ray Petrisek, the microbiologist who did the air quality tests of Herndon, said yesterday that the tests were preliminary and that the analysis of them is not that simple.


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