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December 30, 2010

 

Homer village offices leave Town Hall

By MATTHEW NOJIRI
Staff Reporter
mnojiri@cortlandstandardnews.net

HOMER — After moving out in October — citing concerns about high levels of carbon monoxide — village employees will not be returning to their Town Hall office and have taken a legal step to preserve their right to file a lawsuit.
The village officials told town officials they were not moving back a few weeks ago, both in person and through the mail, Mayor Michael McDermott said Tuesday.
McDermott said the decision to move out started with the village employees’ health concerns, but he also said the village could save taxpayers money by staying in the village recreation office building at 53 S. Main St.
McDermott said the transition to the new building has been going well.
“It’s a little tight, but things are working out fine,” McDermott said, adding that a lot of people enjoy having everything on the ground floor.
Village employees will have their property out of the building by March 31. McDermott said they had already moved most of their belongings. The employees are working in the recreation office three blocks south from the Town Hall, which is at 31 N. Main St.
“Obviously, our people in the town office are disappointed,” said Homer Town Supervisor Fred Forbes of the village’s decision to move out.
The village and its five employees also filed notices of claim that preserve, for a year, their right to file a lawsuit against the town.
Patrick Perfetti, the village’s attorney, said he did not know whether the village would bring a lawsuit against the town. McDermott said the notice of claims were primarily for protection and that he did not have any plans to file a lawsuit.
Village Trustee Michael Berry said the town was “exploring its options” about how to move forward.
“We’re looking at the air quality of the (Town Hall) and that’s just about all I can say about that,” Berry said.
In the notice of claim, the village employees said the carbon monoxide intoxication was caused solely by the town’s negligence. The claim said the town allowed certain utilities to operate in the Town Hall that “hazardously produce carbon monoxide and/or such carbon monoxide was present without being properly vented” from the village’s Town Hall office space.
The five employees listed a host of different symptoms they believe are related to carbon monoxide intoxication, including dizziness, vertigo, nausea, headache, reduced blood oxygenation, and loss of vision and hearing.
In November, the town brought in the state Department of Health and contracted Microbac Labs in Polkville to test the air for carbon monoxide. The tests showed carbon monoxide levels were well within acceptable standards, Forbes said.
“They had complaints about the air quality,” Forbes said. “We’ve done everything to respond to those complaints. We did tests, brought in the state Health Department, bought air purifiers.”
The Town Hall houses the senior center, town court, and the offices of the town assessor, clerk, code enforcer and supervisor.
The town employees continue to work in the building and have not expressed any concerns about carbon monoxide or any of the reported health effects, Forbes said.
The village leases the office space in the Town Hall. McDermott said it costs about $1,200 a month to lease and heat the space.
“There is that consideration,” Berry said. “The village owns this building, so it takes away an expense.”
The village has used the Town Hall office for more than 40 years, according to the building lease.
Patrick Snyder, the town’s attorney, said he would review the building lease to see if it protected the town from the village’s claims.
“I think everybody at the town office is pretty much scratching their heads,” Snyder said of the situation.

 

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