In an effort to protect county and state workers inside a Towson office building, Baltimore County has hired an industrial hygiene firm to monitor ventilation-system renovations.
The move represents the latest step to ease concerns of employees at the 13-story Investment Building, where workers have complained for years of breathing problems, headaches and other ailments they say are related to building conditions.
After mold was discovered inside ventilation units last year, building owners A.M.G. Realty Partners of New York launched a $3 million heating and air-conditioning upgrade.
County officials say they want their own representatives keeping tabs on the work. Last night, the Baltimore County Council approved a $162,075 contract with Martel Laboratories JDS Inc. of Towson to ensure that dust, fungal material and asbestos fibers don't escape into work areas during renovation.
"This is only to protect the health and well-being of the people working there," said George G. Perdikakis, the county's head of environmental protection and resource management.
About 700 state and county employees, mainly in the health and social services departments, work in the building. A small but vocal group of workers say conditions inside made them ill, and blame building managers and county officials with overlooking their concerns for years.
Recent county actions - hiring doctors to interview employees and allowing federal safety investigators inside the building - have done little to address their core concerns, workers say.
County officials plan to seek reimbursement for the industrial hygienist and other expenses from the building's owners. A payment is under negotiation, said County Attorney Virginia Barnhart.
Lee Baylin, a lawyer for A.M.G. Realty, was unaware of the request for payment but said, "As with all negotiations in this thing, it will get resolved."