by Peter Freyne
Hey, at least the sun was shining! Lots and lots of energy in the air too, both outside and inside the building.
At left, is a shot of the heated goings-on in Sen. Vince Illuzzi’s Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs. The hot-button item of the morning was the state office building in Bennington. Specifically, it was the condition of the office building - health wise. There are 135 employees inside and seven of them have been diagnosed with sarcoidosis, a chronic immune system disorder.
Sarcoidosis normally occurs, say VSEA officials, in 1 of 10,000 persons. But 7 out of 135, they say, raises a huge red flag.
State workers say the Douglas administration has known about the problem since last June, but state workers will not be moved out until March. What’s taken so long?
Said our governor to reporters at his weekly “slugfest” in the ceremonial office an hour or two later:
“We acted immediately. I asked the Health Department to look into it immediately along with the Dept of Buildings and General Services. The Health Department conducted a very thorough investigation and concluded that they did not have any evidence linking the building directly to these diagnoses.
“Nevertheless, it seemed to me so unusual that the diagnoses of this disease is disproportionate to the population as a whole, coupled with the fact there is clearly some mold in the building that may be exacerbating asthma or lung conditions, that I felt we had to do something about it.
"I’ve directed the department to move the employees on a temporary basis and make some improvements to the building: clean it up, repair it, alter the building so there’s less likely development of mold in the future. Then eventually send the employees back.”
The state is going to fit up a site in Bennington with modular trailers to serve as a courtroom and other state offices. The price tag: $3.3 million.
“It’s going to be like something you see out in Desert Storm,” said Chairman Illuzzi (R- Essex/Orleans).
In the end, they’ll be taken down, he said. The workers will be returned to the original “sick” building.
“That money could have been spent on refitting an already existing building in a designated downtown Bennington location,” said Sen. Illuzzi.
Illuzzi also noted the Douglas Administration didn’t sign the lease for the modular units until just last week.
Vince the Prince told Buildings Commish Tasha Wallis (testifying above), “The timing has been troubling because we learned you signed the contract only after you learned we were having a hearing today.”