Air-conditioning problems cause unsafe conditions, force closure of Annapolis police station lobby

Danielle Ohl
Contact Reporterdohl@capgaznews.com

The Annapolis Police Department has closed its lobby due to persistent air conditioning problems, making the building unsafe for visitors.

Water has pooled on the lobby floor, creating slippery conditions, said spokeswoman Sgt. Amy Miguez.

The dripping has happened on and off for months, dependent on the weather, Miguez said. It’s caused by the HVAC system, which pulls hot, humid air from outside and condenses upon cooling in the building.

“It’s recurring and it’s pretty bad right now,” she said.

The 199 Taylor Ave. building was rebuilt and expanded during a five-year renovation in the mid-2000s, which spurred the city to sue the original building contractor for faulty work. The city won, winning $3.95 million plus additional contractual costs.

When work finished in 2009, city Central Services Director Robert Schuetz predicted the station wouldn’t need more work for 50 years.

More recently, the city upgraded multiple HVAC systems during an energy performance contract with Honeywell. The tweaks to the systems, including the police department’s, were to save money. One of the adjustments pulls air from outside, but days of humid weather have meant the cost-saving measure creates damp conditions inside the station.

The lobby has a strong musty smell from the dripping water, Miguez said. The city checked some moldy ceiling tiles, Miguez said, but found the levels to be safe to breathe.

The Department of Public Works also checked mold in the Eastport and Taylor Avenue fire stations, which have been corrected, said Director David Jarrell.

Nick Whittles, an operations manager with SERVPRO Annapolis/Severna Park, said mold becomes more common during bouts of rain.

“We’ve had a lot of rain,” he said. “I don’t know if this is a fact or not, but it seems like it’s been one of the rainiest years on record. That’s been a big contribution.”

Mold thrives in moisture, as long as it has some organic matter to feed on. That can be as simple as dirt on concrete or wooden beams.

The department also canceled a neighborhood safety meeting on the third floor, scheduled for Wednesday, because of the unseasonably hot weather.

Jarrell said an air-condition mechanic was working at the station Wednesday. The city is working to fix the problem as soon as possible, he said.

“We’re tweaking the system,” he said, “trying to make it work better so we get the humidity out but keep the savings.”

Residents can still report crimes. Call 410-268-4141 to make a report or use the intercom in the main entrance vestibule. Officers can also meet a caller anywhere in the city.

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