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    Renovate a fire station only to destroy it?

    That is the quandary facing Dunedin, where some workers say Fire Station No. 2 makes them sick.

    By MONIQUE FIELDS
    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published November 28, 2001


    DUNEDIN -- The city is considering renovating one of its three fire stations after an employee complained the building was making her ill.

    The woman complained of sinus and allergy symptoms while working at Fire Station No. 2, 1041 Eckert Drive, said Dunedin fire Chief Bud Meyer. She completed a workers' compensation claim and was reassigned to another station earlier this year.

    But the matter presents a dilemma. Fire Station No. 2, which serves the northwest corner of the city, is scheduled to be razed and rebuilt in 2003-2004 with $800,000 of Penny for Pinellas funds.

    City officials have to decide whether to spend a projected $50,000 to renovate a building that may not be standing in two years.

    Assistant City Manager Maureen Freaney said she's leaning toward approving the renovation. But she said the City Commission may ultimately decide.

    "We're going to do what's right in terms of health issues and what's smart in terms of the building," she said.

    The city started reviewing the building's condition in June, held a meeting about it in August and brought a consultant in to test air quality in September.

    A 13-page report, completed in October by OHC Environmental Engineering Inc. in Tampa, found that employees complained of scratchy throats and noted evidence of roof leaks in the sleeping quarters of the station. Engineers also found mold growth on the carpet and noted that no fresh air was flowing through the air conditioning system.

    "Anybody that has allergy problems or sinuses that are very sensitive, the station could cause them to have a flareup of sinuses or allergies," Meyer said.

    City officials were advised by a local physician, Dr. Richard Johnson, that the there was no immediate short-term or long-term danger to employees, said Freaney.

    But given the report's findings, city officials are discussing ways to improve the building's outdated air conditioning unit.

    "If you get any kinds of things happening with wet carpet -- anything that brings moisture into the building -- it's hard for it to dry out," Freaney said.

    Renovating the building would include upgrading and replacing the air conditioning system and tearing out stained ceiling tiles and moldy carpet.

    The cost of the renovation project would be drafted from the city's facilities reserve account for unexpected costs, Freaney said.

    City officials plan to meet later this week to discuss how to proceed, but the renovation project could begin immediately, Freaney said.

    If it does, the four firefighters who are stationed there would be relocated to a 64- by 36-foot portable building much like a portable classroom.

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