Environmental Hazards Delay Group's Move To Post Office

April 07, 1991|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff writer

The discovery of lead paint and asbestos in the former Bel Air post office on Main Street means there will be a delay before the county'sHistorical Society can move in, county administrators said.

"There was no engineering inspection done before the building was purchased in October" said Larry Klimovitz, county director of administration. "We were unaware of those problems. Postal officials themselves maynot have known either."

The county purchased the building for $430,000 last year. Former County Executive Habern W. Freeman promised the historical society the building would be for their offices.

The environmental hazards were discovered several weeks ago after David Sewell, the county's chief of facilities and operations, ordered tests done on paint chips and had the asbestos inspected.

"The post office was built in 1936 by the (Works Progress Administration)," said Sewell. "I had the painttested because in older buildings like that, lead paint was prevalent. The asbestos in the basement also is starting to come loose and that has to be taken care of."

County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann has included $150,000 in the 1991-1992 budget submitted this month to the County Council to pay for the costs of addressing the hazards.

Klimovitz said the county government won't know how much they'll have to pay to remove the health hazards until an engineering study is completed in six to eight weeks.

"There are roof problems and severe electrical problems that also have to be corrected before anyone can move in," said Klimovitz.

The delay, and rumors that other county agencies were being considered as tenants for the old post office, prompted members of the Historical Society to seek help from the County Council Tuesday.

"We're having a problem getting into the old post office," said Patricia Hathaway, a member of the county Historical Society. "The original intention was for the society to be a major occupant. And the extensive changes to the interior the administration is planning are totally the opposite of everything we'd like to do."

The council passed a resolution Tuesday urging the county executive to allow the Historical Society to occupy the building.

"But no one has ever said the historical society would not be a prime occupant in that building," said Klimovitz.

Klimovitz said he and Rehrmann also are considering using some space in the building for storing county records or allowing county agencies to occupy space in the post office temporarily.

Klimovitz said he isn't prepared to promise the space to any other departments yet because there are some structural problems that must be addressed first.

Members of the historical society are concerned about what those changes will mean. "Thereare all sorts of things being contemplated without taking into consideration the historical integrity of the building," said Hathaway.

Klimovitz said the Historical Society's concerns "are unfounded."

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