SALISBURY – Some employees with the Wicomico County Health Department will move to temporary office space following the approval of a lease agreement last week.
Last week, the Wicomico County Council voted unanimously to approve a lease agreement between the county and E.S. Adkins LCC to rent five office units at a complex on North Salisbury Boulevard while the basement of the health department’s Seth H. Hurdle building – located in downtown Salisbury – undergoes demolition to investigate hydrostatic pressure issues.
“We need to get the health department employees out of the basement of the Hurdle building to be able to examine and hopefully fix the issues we are having in the basement,” said Weston Young, the county’s assistant director of administration. “So we are trying to move them to this facility.”
In September, county staff came before the council to present a lease agreement with E.S. Adkins after discovering that mounting water pressure in the basement of the Hurdle building had caused the concrete slab floor to buckle. They noted that 30 employees would be removed from the basement and moved to the leased facility while the county completes an investigation into the causes of the hydrostatic pressure issues.
Last month, however, the county council agreed to table the lease agreement until additional provisions – including any actions for the discovery of mold – could be added to the lease.
In a county council meeting last week, council attorney Bob Taylor told officials attempts to include mold provisions that would allow the county to terminate its entire lease or to remediate the issue were rejected by the landlord.
“We are now back to the only remedy the county has is to terminate any suites that have mold in it, but not the entire premises,” he said. “Frankly, I think that’s pretty unrealistic and unacceptable.”
County attorney Paul Wilber, however, argued it was unlikely the county would encounter a mold issue at the facility.
“Many leases do not have mold provisions at all,” he said. “This doesn’t accomplish all that you would like to have, but it is certainly movement by the landlord to address a mold situation.”
“There are two existing leases there, with the oldest from 2000,” he said. “In the 18 years they’ve been there, there has been no reports of mold.”
Councilman Joe Holloway pointed out the county was entering the lease to remediate water issues at the Hurdle building and wanted to make sure employees wouldn’t encounter similar issues at the temporary office complex.
“You have to look at a little history here,” he said, “and why we even have to rent this space to begin with.”
Council President John Cannon, however, said he didn’t foresee any mold issues at the E.S. Adkins building.
“I’m not so certain that mold is going to be a real issue at this location,” he said. “It never has been.”
Young added that the facility would also be inspected for mold.
“We would have it tested, and they would have to remedy it,” he said.
With no further discussion, the council voted unanimously to execute a lease agreement.
“Worst case scenario, if something does happen they’ll move out real swiftly,” Holloway said.