Black mold is growing inside the Nassau County Courthouse in Fernandina Beach, and commissioners learned Monday it might take more than $100,000 to fix.
The courtroom and other areas on the second floor of the 113-year-old building on Centre Street in Fernandina Beach have been closed for several days because of traces of black mold.
The county also closed off the judicial chambers, judicial breakroom and a second-floor restroom after air samples showed higher than normal spore counts of black mold on Aug. 12.
Built in 1892, the historic courthouse is one of the oldest functioning courthouses in the state and was extensively renovated four years ago at a cost of about $4 million.
Monday, the Nassau County Commission unanimously approved a resolution to retain the renovation architects to find a solution to the black mold, which can cause allergy symptoms and, in some cases, more severe reactions.
County Administrator Mike Mahaney said it could cost more than $100,000, and commissioners were miffed by recurring problems at the building since the renovation.
“I can’t believe it,” Commission-er Marianne Marshall said. “I’m truly appalled at what we’re spending, and that building was just renovated.”
Commissioner Tom Branan also voted to retain the architects, but grumbled about the eventual costs.
“Throwing money down a hole,” he said.
Prior to the meeting, Mahaney said the county was waiting for the results of environmental tests to determine whether other areas of the courthouse have also been affected and might need to be closed.
Currently, Judge Brian Davis is holding court hearings in the law library on the first floor.
Davis said he expects to continue working from the courthouse. “I haven’t received any notice of (evacuation),” he said.
“… I’m waiting on the county manager to find out the full extent of the problem.”
He said business has gone on as usual on the first floor of the building. “There have been people here working since the
problem was discovered,” Davis said.
All other areas of the courthouse were open, pending the results of further air tests. County Building Maintenance Director Daniel Salmon said he was optimistic about the results because other areas of the courthouse are on separate air conditioning systems.
“I do not expect there to be elevated counts of fungal spores anywhere else in the building,” he said.
Nassau County Sheriff Tommy Seagraves said the mold has not affected how his office serves the courthouse.
“We … provide protection for the judge and the courthouse, and that’s what we’ve continued to do,” Seagraves said. “It hasn’t really affected us at all.”
This is not the first time the county has had problems with water at the courthouse since its renovation.
Shortly after the building re-opened in 2002, the second floor began to drip water in the summers when temperatures and humidity were high.
Salmon said hot moist air in the attic caused condensation to form on the air conditioning vents, which dripped into the courtroom, offices and chambers. Efforts to fix the problem have been unsuccessful.
He did not believe the mold had anything to do with the building’s age.
“It can happen just as easy in a brand new building,” he said. “Any time you have moisture on anything that could be considered food for fungus to grow on, such as wood sheet rock, or even masonry, mold will grow.”