Study planned to determine mold levels at library

Talks of closing, temporarily moving library on hold for next month
Kevin Passon

How much mold is too much? That depends on who you ask.

The Shawano County Library Board will at least try to get a handle on the mold levels at the library before taking any more steps toward a temporary home.

Board members decided Nov. 2 to hire a firm to conduct a study to determine the mold levels at the library. The last such study was done in 2017. Results should be available in another month.

“I personally would not work in an environment like that,” board member Gina Shatters said. “Us asking our employees to do that is not right. I am not OK with that. I don’t think it’s right.”

At the October meeting of the Shawano County Board, Supervisor Joe Miller raised the issue and said what was happening was unacceptable.

“I wish other supervisors would go and see it for themselves,” he told the library board. “I asked the questions that I had to ask. Now I’m leaving it up to the powers that be to rectify the situation, because if another employee gets sick, whose hands is it on? You’ve got people working in unhealthy conditions. You’ve got residents of the city and county entering that building, and that basement is designed for children.

“Let’s figure this thing out. My official position is you shut the library down.”

Tom Kautza, county board chairman, said the EPA has not set limits on what are or are not unacceptable mold levels.

“Limits were never established yet for various types of mold,” Kautza said.

He suggested the library board find out what level of mold is in the building.

One employee has already become sick from the mold and, later, reportedly quit her job at the library because of it.

“What happens when an employee gets sick and sues the county?” Shatters asked. “I live in this county; I don’t want to pay more taxes than I have to.”

“There’s no answer to it,” Kautza replied. “The first thing they have to prove in court is, ‘Yes, we were negligent, or no, we were not.’ That’s what we’re attempting to prove right now. Are there acceptable limits? If there are acceptable limits, are we within them, or are we outside of them? Other than that, everybody can say all they want — that mold is terrible; it’s going to kill you — but apparently, the federal government never established anything.”

The library board has the authority to close the building. Initial talks have been made about moving the library to a temporary site in hopes a new courthouse would be built within the next five years that would also house a new library.

“We’re potentially putting the county in liability situation,” Shatters said. “We need to close the building. We need to figure something out. We have to move; we have to do something.”

Shatters asked Kautza how the county board feels about the library. She said Jim Davel, county administrative coordinator, gave the library board the impression the county supports the library, but she has yet to hear from any supervisors.

“Do you want the library to stay there?” she asked. “Do you want the library to move? What does the county say?”

She said if the library board can avoid someone suing, action should be taken.

“If the board is worried about that, I would suggest they close the library,” Kautza said. “That’s the only suggestion I can make.”

Shatters said Davel’s earlier comments appear contradictory to Kautza’s.

“None of this was done at the last meeting,” Kautza said by way of explanation. “None of this information was available. Mr. Davel doesn’t necessarily represent the county on all issues. Mr. Davel is the coordinator. That’s his job title.”

Kautza said the mold issue has come to a head now because of Miller’s comments at the last county board meeting.

“Well, somebody had to, right?” Miller said. “I’m sick and tired of sitting in a room with a bunch of bumps on a damn log that don’t say nothing, that don’t do nothing.”