The MFD administration building as well of two of its fire stations are having mold problems. Photo by Devin Carson

A problem that has been growing for four years is at the beginning of a solution, but Maricopa City Council is not happy with how things reached this rotten state.

“We have two fire stations that have mold growing in them and also the fire administration building that has mold,” said Lonnie Inskeep, assistant chief for Maricopa Fire Department.

He came before council Tuesday to ask for $30,500 from the city’s contingency fund. He also asked council to approve a contract with Core Construction to deal with the problem.

“We’ve noticed the mold had been growing for a while,” he said. “And because we have questions from our personnel about the quality of the air – what are they breathing in, how are these mold spores affecting them – decided to turn it over to Environmental Consulting Services.”

The problems were found in Fire Station 571, Fire Station 574 and the administration buildings. Inskeep said there is no evidence of mold at the other two fire stations because they were constructed differently. He also said he was assured by the architect and general contractor the new fleet building also will not have mold problems.

He said the mold is deep within the shower walls. Core Construction will do containment with plastic shields, duct tape and exhaust fans, and then completely strip down the walls to remove and properly dispose of the mold.

“We want to do the job right so we don’t have this happen again,” Inskeep said.

“It should not have happened the first time,” Vice Mayor Marvin Brown said.

The mold was discovered in 2012, and the department tried to treat it with basics like bleach. However, the problem kept returning.

“Some employees say that this is the sickest they’ve been in two years,” Inskeep said. Though they have not had medical tests to prove the cause, Inskeep said MFD wants to fix the problem and move forward.

Councilmember Nancy Smith encouraged Inskeep to make sure ongoing issues are brought forward during the budget process so the council will know about possible hits to the contingency fund.

“We probably should have had some knowledge that this was a problem,” she said.

When Mayor Christian Price asked why MFD waited until now to bring the mold issue forward, Inskeep said, “I really have no good answer to that.”

He said they did not understand how deep the problem was and compared the reveal to peeling layers off an onion.

The estimate from Core Construction includes $24,374 for the three administration buildings, $2,675 for station 571 and $2,735 for station 574. Inskeep, resource manager for MFD, said he added $800 to cover unexpected costs.

Council approved the expenditure.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

•    The council approved an intergovernmental agreement with Arizona Department of Transportation for the design of the planned overpass. City attorney Denis Fitzgibbons said the city is requesting a couple of minor changes, but if they increase the cost to the city the IGA will be brought back to council. The city’s cost for the design portion is almost $700,000.

“This is a big one. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Price said. “It’s a good thing.”

•    The council also approved the expansion of the Beer Garden at the upcoming Salsa Festival, but not unanimously. Events Manager Niesha Whitman said Police Chief Stahl was amenable to expanding beer to the footprint of the festival only with strict stipulations, including adding five security personnel. She said 20-50 people complained about the Beer Garden restrictions.

Councilmember Peg Chapados said she did not like the idea of turning the entire festival into a beer garden. She was also unhappy council was not told about the major change much earlier.

•    The council approved the performance evaluation for City Manager Gregory Rose and approved a 5-percent merit raise.

•    The council authorized the completion of paperwork to apply for the Rural Public Transportation Program.