As a result of the mold contamination in the Lawrence Road Fire Co. firehouse hall, voting for four Lawrence Township polling districts will be moved to a new location for the Nov. 8 general election, Township Manager Richard Krawczun told Lawrenceville Patch after Tuesday night’s (Oct. 18) Lawrence Township Council meeting.
Affected are residents of Lawrence Township Districts 3, 6, 8 and 11 who normally go to the firehouse in the 1200 block of Lawrence Road (Route 206) to cast their votes.
The move should pose no significant problems or inconvenience for voters, Krawczun said, because voting machines are only being relocated a short distance to the Lawrence Township Emergency Medical Services building, which is located on Pilla Avenue directly behind the firehouse. The firehouse and the EMS building share the same parking lot.
He said the township plans to use its “Reverse 911” notification system to inform voters of the location change. Signs will also be posted in the parking lot and on the two buildings on Election Day to clearly direct voters where to go.
During Tuesday’s township meeting, Krawczun told council members that sealed bids would be opened on Oct. 28 for the project to eliminate the mold and repair the firehouse.
According to a bid notice posted on the Lawrence Township website, all bids should “provide for mold remediation, repair and waterproof sealing of damaged exterior stucco and installation of new interior wallboard at the Lawrence Road firehouse… Construction shall commence on or about Nov. 19, 2011, and must be completed by Dec. 14, 2011.”
During their Sept. 20 meeting, council members were advised by Krawczun that mold cleanup and repairs to the firehouse could cost as much as $50,000, in addition to almost $9,000 already spent by the township.
Mold was discovered in ceiling tiles in an area of the firehouse hall below where a condensation pan for a roof-mounted air conditioning unit had been leaking, Krawczun told council during that Sept. 20 meeting. He said mold was also found in an area of the ceiling and walls in the men’s restroom of the firehouse hall, below where holes had been punctured in the roof membrane by landscaping rocks that had been tossed onto the roof and subsequently stepped on over time.
Krawczun said the township hired an environmental cleanup company to test the areas to confirm that mold was present. After mold was confirmed and identified as a type known as basidiospores, the township entered into an emergency contract – costing $8,950 – to have the mold removed and areas cleaned.
“As the abatement [of the ceiling tiles and restroom] was being completed, one of the volunteer firefighters pointed out other locations in the building that were suspect to mold. At that point, we contracted with the same environmental company to do a complete assessment of the entire building. Additional locations were discovered to contain mold,” Krawczun explained during the Sept. 20 meeting.
Those new areas, he said, were the wall of the firehouse hall that runs alongside Pilla Avenue, a janitorial closet near the hall’s main entrance off Marlboro Road, and the wall at the front of the firehouse along Route 206.
The hall of the firehouse remains closed at this time, however other areas of the firehouse continue to be used.
Township officials learned of the possible presence of mold in the firehouse after two volunteer firefighters, brothers Ryan and Chris Dlabik, each contracted a life-threatening respiratory infection in June. The brothers, both trustees of the fire company, had examined the wet ceiling tiles in the firehouse hall not long before they became ill.
The brothers subsequently recovered from their illnesses. No definitive link between their infections and the firehouse was ever established, according to both township officials and the volunteer firefighters’ themselves.
“We still don’t know what caused it,” their mother, Linda Dlabik, told council when she appeared before them at their Oct. 4 meeting and asked questions about the status of the mold cleanup. “My kids are still going through issues… They were both in ICU [intensive care] for a week, unable to breathe.”
Firefighter First Responder Program
In other Lawrence Township emergency services news, Krawzcun confirmed that Lawrence Township’s daytime duty crew of career firefighters – four fulltime firefighters who work Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. – last week started to respond to medical emergencies as part of a “First Responder” program the township has been working on since the beginning of the year.
Krawczun said the firefighters will respond to medical calls in a number of situations, including when township ambulance personnel are already busy on another emergency or when an ambulance crew has an extended travel time to get to an emergency scene.
“Fire calls will take priority,” Krawczun said.
But he noted that the firefighters will not abandon a patient to answer a fire call if they are already treating that person. In such a situation, they will not respond to the fire call until they have first transferred care of the patient to trained medical personnel.
The firefighters recently completed a 40-hour “First Responder” course on basic emergency medical care.
Back in January, the township council introduced, and later adopted, an ordinance creating a “First Responder” fee of $250 allowing the township to bill patients’ insurance companies for services provided by the firefighter duty crew at medical emergencies and traffic accidents.
Bed Bugs at EMS Building
Also last week, the township employed the services of an exterminator to address a minor bed bug problem at the township EMS building on Pilla Avenue, Krawczun confirmed.
He said the infestation was “isolated” to a single piece of furniture in the building’s lounge area. “We exterminated the area… We feel that it has been eradicated,” he said.
Krawczun said he was not aware of any emergency medical technicians or other township employees suffering any problems related to the bed bugs.