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High fungus levels

Published May 12. 2011 05:01PM

A lab report on mold in the Lansford borough office revealed high levels of Aspergillus, a fungus commonly associated with water damage.

The report, by Dr. Vernon L. Alvarez of Criterion Laboratories Inc., Bensalem, Bucks County, was received by the borough on April 12 and distributed at Wednesday's regular council meeting.

The mold was found on a sample of plaster from the offices, above the American Fire Co. No. 1 at 23 E. Patterson Street.

"Aspergillus is a common source of allergens in homes and offices, and may lead to health issues," Alvarez noted.

The problem apparently stems from a leaky chimney. Council is arranging to have the offices cleaned of the mold and the chimney repaired.

The mold prompted borough secretary-treasurer Renee Slakoper to ask to be allowed to work from home, as she is sensitive to the fungus. After council twice deadlocked on the matter, Mayor Ron Hood broke the tie votes, opposing the request. Hood said that Slakoper's job description requires her to work with the public, and to do that, she must have information readily available.

The borough office was moved to the next room in an effort to keep office staff away from the mold. Council is now considering moving the offices to the community center on Ridge Street. However, some officials fear there is mold there, too.

The building at 23 E. Patterson is aging, and in need of extensive repair. The fire company wants to apply for a $265,000 matching grant through the state Department of Community and Economic development. However, council pointed out that the match would require 8 mills of property taxes. On Wednesday, council agreed to meet with fire company representatives to discuss the matter.

In other matters, council:

• Heard from property owner Brenda Lee Wells, who owns a building at 106-108 W. Ridge St. Wells said the building houses apartments and shops, and said her water service had been wrongly shut off and that she had been being billed six times a year from sewer transmission fees.

Solicitor Michael Greek will review Wells' information and report back to council.

• Council members Tommy Vadyak, Mary Kruczek and Rose Mary Cannon said they were not being given information, including notices of overdue bills and important communications. Vadyak blamed Slakoper, and moved to fire her. Cannon suggested council meet in executive session to discuss the matter.

Council President Adam Webber said he did not believe information was being deliberately withheld. At Cannon's request, he agreed to devote more time to financial matters during administrative committee meetings.

• Discussed, but tabled, reducing the number of recreation commission members from nine to five;

• Appointed Jermaine Thomas to the zoning hearing board, with former councilman Bob Gaughan as an alternate;

• Agreed to call DCED to ask for an extension on a $50,000 demolition grant, even though the deadline had passed to request the extra time. Council may have to repay the grant, plus interest, because it failed to use the money by the specified time.

There followed a sharp debate as to why the money wasn't used, with some blaming the former secretary-treasurer for putting the money in the general fund as a line item instead of in a separate account. Webber moved that the borough sue her for failing to properly allocate the funds if the borough is forced to give back the grant, but received no support. Councilwoman Danielle Smith moved to put the money immediately into a special, interest-bearing account.

• Discussed Kruczek's request to meet in executive session with auditors who are studying the borough's finances and business activities. She said some council members were getting information secondhand. Greek advised council that doing that would violate the state Sunshine Law. Webber said the auditors were concerned about "sensitive issues" being made public before they should be.

• Discussed AmeriHealth's termination of the borough workers' compensation policy as of July 1 due to too many claims.

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