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Air quality to be tested at Willmar City Offices

Shelby Lindrud / Tribune The air quality testing would be the first such testing done in the Wilmar City Offices.1 / 3
Shelby Lindrud / TribuneVisible throughout the building are dirty ceiling tiles around air vents.2 / 3
Shelby Lindrud / TribuneThe Willmar City Council approved getting the air quality tested at the Willmar City Offices. The tests will look at not only air quality, but lead, mold and asbestos.3 / 3

WILLMAR — As discussion about whether to build a new city hall in Willmar swirled over the last year, unease about the potential unhealthy conditions of the current building was raised as a reason for a new hall being necessary. While the stories have caused concern, the city doesn't actually have any scientific data about the environment inside the building. That will now change.

The Willmar City Council approved the hiring of M.A.A.C of Montevideo to complete air quality testing at the city offices for an estimated total of $2,825.

"The air quality in city hall has been questionable for some time. We have always had issues maintaining humidity levels year round. Mold has been discovered in the building as a result of those leaks during heavy rain falls," said Sean Christensen, public works director.

There has been asbestos found in the building. M.A.A.C. was called in last year to do the asbestos clean-up after it was found during the repairs to the building after a water leak. Christensen said that repair project was probably also the first time a portion of the building's duct work had been cleaned out since the city took up residence in the 1970s.

"It is unknown if duct cleaning has ever been performed," Christensen said.

For the cost, M.A.A.C will perform one lead air sample per floor, two mold air samples per floor, two asbestos air samples per floor and two swab wipes per each material per floor for a total of six. The testing will require the company's hygienist to run air pumps in the building for two days.

"That to me seems pretty reasonable, for all that we have been talking about the air quality," Councilor Julie Asmus said.

There was some question about what the city would do if unhealthy conditions were found.

"What are we going to do with that information afterward?" Councilor Kathy Schwantes asked. "My concern is investing in a building that we are going to be tearing down in a short period of time if we need to repair it, so the working conditions are adequate."

Schwantes said she would like to look at putting money in the 2019 budget to help fund any repairs, remodeling or other fixes if the tests come back with risks. Presently there is no money in the 2019 budget for a new city hall. Discussion on the project stalled this summer when the council could not come to a decision about a possible location for a new facility.

City Attorney Robert Scott said the city would need to respond to any problems the testing uncovers.

"If you are aware of potentially hazardous conditions in your facility, that is something you would have to take into account. You would have to address them, somehow," Scott said.

While the council isn't looking forward to possible bad news from the results, they do support getting the testing done.

"We have an obligation for the safety of our employees and the public that utilize our buildings," Councilor Shawn Mueske said. "If it is deemed a sick building, we have to deal with it."

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