Mold found in Admin. No. 2 building

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, January 3, 2013

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E mployees of the tribe's Administration Building No. 2 on Wednesday received a New Year's surprise: The building will close Friday at 5 p.m.

The closure was ordered after DC Restoration of Mesa, Ariz., which is completing the remediation of Administration Building No. 1, inspected Building No. 2 and tests showed mold was present, said Arbin Mitchell, President Ben Shelly's chief of staff.

Building No. 2 houses the Division of Community Development, the Division of Health and the Division of Social Services.

Some of the programs under the Division of Health and also housed in the building include the Health Education Program, Special Diabetes Program, Community Health Representatives Outreach Program, Food Distribution Program and Women, Infant and Children Program.

Also occupying the building is Navajo Area Agency on Aging, the contracts and grants section of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Environmental Health.

Since arriving Wednesday morning, employees were busy packing boxes and inventorying office furniture.

A section of the first floor was sealed with large sheets of plastic taped along the tiled floor and along the ceiling.

Access was available from the south side doors but entrance on the north side was restricted to the stairs rather than through the main lobby.

Leonard Chee, acting director for the Division of Community Development, said employees were informed that the move was in preparation for Friday's closure and to avoid complications like the ones that occurred when Administration Building No. 1 was ordered closed in September 2011.

Black mold, which can be toxic when spores are inhaled, was also found in that building.

In that situation, the building was ordered closed "indefinitely" by the Navajo Nation Occupational Safety and Health Administration until limited access was allowed by court order.

"It is worrisome because it will complicate work," Chee said about the closure.

Still, Chee is concerned about the health and safety of employees.

He said employees were instructed to pack essential items, which would be decontaminated in the sealed area on the first floor before being removed from the building.

Leaders from the building's other two divisions were not available for comment.

Division of Social Services Director Sharon Begay-McCabe was out of the office until late afternoon and Division of Health Director Larry Curley referred questions to Erny Zah, director of communications for the Office of the President and Vice President.

Zah said the primary concern is employee health and relocation of the programs is continuing.

"As Friday approaches, we'll have a better idea of who is going where," Zah said.

He added that Building No. 1 was originally scheduled to reopen this month but upon remediation it was suggested the building be renovated to meet current building codes.

Mitchell said a meeting was set for late afternoon Wednesday to address where occupants of Building No. 2 would be housed.

He said some programs have agency offices that could be used for relocation while other programs could be relocated to a vacant building on the east side of Navajo Department of Transportation in Tsé Bonito, N.M. or to the first floor of the Nizhoni Smiles building in St. Michaels, Ariz.

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