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Building might need renovations Citizens complex has poor air flow that can sicken some; Second quality study due; Ventilation work estimated to cost up to $43,000


Costly renovations might be necessary to improve air quality at the county's Citizen Services Complex in Westminster.

An evaluation completed in the fall found elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the building on Distillery Drive. The county has taken steps to address the problem, but it is unclear if the air flow has improved, said G. Michael Whitson, bureau chief of the county's building and grounds division.

He said the county plans to pay for a second air quality study after additional corrective actions have been completed. If the problem still exists, the County Commissioners will decide whether to approve money to repair defects.

Richard J. Soisson, director of the county's Recreation and Parks Department, said initial estimates of the ventilation work are between $37,000 and $43,000.

Charles L. Zeleski, the county's director of environmental health, said the air quality in the building poses no health risks to employees. However, the lack of air flow creates an accumulation of pollutants that may cause itchy eyes or skin, rashes and minor breathing problems, depending on each person's sensitivity.

"The symptoms should subside once the people leave the building," Zeleski said.

Whitson said employees have complained that the air is stuffy and does not circulate properly.

"It's like working in a closet with no fresh air coming in," he said. "It's just stuffy and not the best working conditions."

The four-story, 20,000-square-foot Citizen Services Complex houses the county's Department of Citizens Services, the county Department of Social Services and Human Services Programs, a private non-profit agency that administers programs for low-income county residents.

The air quality problems are most pronounced in the social services offices, where about 100 people work.

The county bought the building, known as the Barrel House, for $2.2 million in 1990 and converted it into offices.

Whitson said the installation of partitions to create separate rooms in the former warehouse space created air quality problems.

"The partitions closed up areas where it used to be a wide open area, and the [air] flow changed dramatically," he said.

Last fall, the state Department of Human Resources (DHR) commissioned an air quality study of the Barrel House building at the request of an employee in the Carroll County Department of Social Services, said John D. Hergenroeder, director of facilities services with DHR.

A Towson consulting firm, SSM, evaluated conditions on the first and second floors of the building on four days in October and November.

Tests showed that carbon dioxide levels ranged from 1,000 to 2,000 parts per million, and from 800 to 1,500 parts per million.

The recommended carbon dioxide level is a maximum of 1,000 parts per million, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers.

In response to the study results, Whitson said the county made changes to duct work and thermostats in the building.

"We're going to come in with another air quality study, but if there is still a carbon dioxide problem, we're going to have to spend some money," he said.

Pub Date: 4/04/97

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