By Jane Smith
The city recently agreed to pay more than $221,000 for work done to clean and sanitize two fire stations, including one that serves Ocean Ridge and Briny Breezes.
At station No. 1, which serves the coastal communities, the mold-removal work cost Boynton Beach $69,673. The station, on Boynton Beach Boulevard near City Hall, closed in early December after mold was found. It reopened Jan. 18. Crews worked out of station No. 4 on South Federal Highway.
“I hope we don’t have to go down this road again,” said Commissioner Mack McCray at the March 16 meeting. “That was $221,569 that I wished we could have saved.”
An additional $20,575 was paid to send 46 employees who claimed they suffered from air quality problems in station Nos. 1 and 3 for chest X-rays and for 28 of them to see a pulmonologist.
Only five are still in the process of being verified, Tim McPherson, risk management director, told the City Commission. Employees floated between station Nos. 1 and 3, making it impossible to identify at which station they contracted the problem, he said.
Parts of a sleep apnea machine used by an employee also became contaminated, not the entire machine, McPherson told commissioners.
Interim Fire Chief Greg Hoggatt explained what his staff is doing to stop the air-quality problems:
• Conducting annual inspections of the stations by senior staff,
• Reminding captains at the stations that they are responsible for cleanliness at the stations and that housekeeping needs to be improved,
• Reporting any leaks that need to be fixed,
• Reviewing standard operating guidelines on cleanliness and determining whether they are the most efficient ways to do them, and
• Reminding firefighters to consider the stations as their homes and to treat them as such.
Semi-annual deep cleanings are once again done by an outside firm. When budget cuts were made citywide in 2008, the cleanings were done in-house, Hoggatt said.
At fire station No. 1, the flaps didn’t seal properly, allowing engine exhaust and other airborne particles to enter the bunk rooms where firefighters sleep, risk management workers found.
HVAC rooms at both stations were found to be dirty and littered with garbage. The units need to be cleaned at least monthly, according to the risk management report.
The City Commission approved the expenditure unanimously by a 4-0 vote. Commissioner David Merker was absent.
Commissioner McCray asked, “Who dropped the ball?”
“The team dropped the ball,” Hoggatt said. “No one place was the weak link.”
By Jane Smith