City moving 300 workers and government agencies out of mold-infested office building

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  A new office for city workers doesn't scream "news headline," but when you look at what they're leaving, you better understand the story. 

The city of Louisville left 300 workers in a public building with a known mold problem for four years. Many of the workers provided services to the poor.

"It's black, speckled on the ceiling tiles...and you could smell it," said Dawna Brown, a former Metro Louisville employee.

"We're going to move everybody out," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said. "They'll be gone by the end of June."

Metro Louisville's Community Services is the next to go from the troubled Urban Government Center.

I'm ready to get it over with and very excited," said Tiffany Reed, a Meals on Wheels worker. 

The department's 80 employees will move to a renovated warehouse at the corner of 7th Street and Ormsby Avenue in Old Louisville, called the Edison Center. 

The Community Services department helps low-income families pay their utility bills, coordinates Meals on Wheels and helps small businesses get off the ground. 

"We're going from a building that has offices for everybody to, really, an open concept," said Eric Friedlander, Director of Metro Louisville Community Services. "I'm excited about it." 

But the community will essentially walk through a construction zone to get to the community services office. City leaders thought that would be a better solution than allowing a known mold problem to go into a fourth year. The city missed its own deadline to move by the end of 2014. 

Ironically, the city's Air Pollution Office moved first. 

Changes did not come fast enough for Dawna Brown. 

"If they know there's mold, why not just get everyone out and condemn the building?" Brown asked.

For six years, she worked in the County Elections Office on the first floor of the government center at the corner of Baxter Avenue and Breckinridge Street. 

"Within 45 minutes to an hour, you'd start sneezing and nose runny nose," Brown said. "It just takes a tole on you and you start feeling bad all the time." 

A group of city workers sued Metro Louisville over the mold problem -- but the Mayor didn't want to talk about the case. 

"I don't have any knowledge of that," Mayor Fischer said.

Instead, he calls the renovation part of a larger plan to revitalize Old Louisville, with the city leasing space from a private developer who plans to turn it into an innovation district. 

And today, he offered an explanation for why it took so long.

"We wanted to do some things to the new building that would make it more efficient and hospitable," Fischer said.

"That's four years too long," Brown said. "When it was discovered, they should have gotten them out immediately."

The Edison Center sat vacant for more than a decade.

The city's lease will cost taxpayers just under $1 million a year. 

Community Services makes the move April 11. 

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