PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - There's an end in sight to the nearly yearlong mold saga in Phillipsburg.
The Corliss Avenue building was hit with OSHA and health department violations. While air quality has increased 50 percent, the town still faces the looming threat of a $700-per-day fine if indoor mold levels move above outside normal air mold levels.
“If we don’t move they’re going to come down with the wrath of God upon us,” said Mayor Stephen Ellis.
Ellis pitched a relatively recent option to council and the public: move the municipal building to the soon-to-be vacated dental office on Main Street.
Under Ellis’s plan, employees currently at the highest risk would move to an adjacent building on Mercer Street owned by the same company until the dental office moved out and was refurbished for town use. The process would take about two months, during which the company currently owning the buildings agreed not to charge rent.
A second wave of employees would then move directly into the new buildings, with mayoral offices located at the Main Street building and code inspection located permanently in the Mercer Street offices; the majority of the police department would move to the Armory building alongside the public works department, while one squad would be assigned to the Main Street offices.
“I do believe we’ve done our homework, and this is the way to go,” Ellis said, emphasizing the building’s young age, lack of asbestos and cost compared to moving offices to the Armory or Warren County Community College.
The asking price for the buildings is about $1.1 million -- a number Ellis said he intends to negotiate. Alternately, the armory plan would cost about $3 million and the community college option offered less footage for $8,000 per month.
Council’s next step is to meet with Ellis before drafting a resolution either allowing the mayor to purchase the property or to lease for $0 with intent to purchase.
Both Ellis and Council President Todd Tersigni indicated they were waiting for hear from the other on the matter.
Tersigni said he wouldn’t go in the municipal building but had tried to set up a meeting.
“I call and call and call,” he said.
Town employee Sandra Callery expressed her and her coworkers’ despair at the town’s seeming apathy toward the situation. Callery said employees worked in an atmosphere of anxiety, waiting three weeks to see the air quality reports Ellis published at the meeting.
Some employees have been to the doctors for tests to check whether they had been affected by working conditions, Callery said.
Ellis said he will announce an emergency meeting next week.
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