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New Richmond School Board hears complaint about mold at Commons

The New Richmond School District Board of Education regular meeting on Monday, April 20, started off with a concerned citizen bringing forward a petition for the board to act on.

New Richmond resident Lon MacRae used the meeting’s open forum time to present the board with a petition signed by 135 people asking the School Board to inspect the Community Commons, in its entirety, for toxic black mold as soon as possible and then to notify the public of what the report found as soon as they are able.

“This has gone on for some time for us now,” MacRae said. “We were the original people who noticed the mold in that building and I feel like the downplay by the school district, I feel, has gotten a little out of control. Yes, you did a good job, found the mold and remediated it, but no one remediated the problem … that area where the mold was found is primed for mold growth.

“When nobody puts a maintenance program to maintain whether or not that mold re-grows, you can’t say there’s not mold there five days after you cleaned it. That is my concern.”

The Commons houses the district’s Community Education program as well as CESA 11’s Head Start program and other civic organizations, which MacRae said was his major concern in bringing the petition to the board.

“We do look at the problem up there and we have a monthly maintenance routine,” District Administrator Moberg said. “We inspect those areas every month for mold and we have not seen anything. We care deeply about the air quality and safety down there.”

MacRae went on to say that, although the report that was presented to the district last May and all subsequent checks have come up with showing the air quality of the building is sound without any trace of mold, he has seen leaky spots throughout the whole building and that there was mold in the art room when he and his family were there making pottery earlier this year.

“We did not report that at that time because, if you haven’t noticed, coordination between you (Moberg) and me hasn’t been very good,” MacRae said. “The way we have been dealt with has been bitter like we pissed you off and like you stepped on my toes.”

At that point in the open forum, board president Rick Hinz stepped in and called for calm because he felt the situation was starting to get out of hand and become more personal than it should have been.

“This is an open forum and you’ve crossed the line, getting it to a personal level,” Hinz said. “We allow this opportunity for you to bring a topic forward. It is always a concern when we enter into a dialogue that things can get out of hand and the scope starts to grow, which lets it get out of control … to start turning it into personal attacks … that is stepping over a line.”

In response, MacRae apologized for letting things get out of hand, but also pointed out that the whole situation has gotten out of hand in the amount of expense he and his family have had to put into the situation.

Another question MacRae asked of the board was about the asbestos that was found at the Commons and was mentioned as being located in the art room at the Commons in the reports presented by CESA.

“I don’t think there is any exposed asbestos in there, I don’t think there has been for a long time,” Moberg said. “The district has been pretty aggressive in eliminating asbestos in all of our locations. There could be that is sealed behind locations that I don’t believe we are required to remove. But if there was any demolition that disturbed those areas then we would be required to remove that.”

In response to Moberg’s statements, MacRae requested that the district provide him with the report that states the asbestos was dealt with and sealed like the school claimed. Hinz asked MacRae to write up a summary of the documents he would like the district to provide so that they can more efficiently and easily find those documents and make sure they are what MacRae was looking for.

“We will gather our responses and reach out to you once we have everything together that you are asking for,” Hinz said.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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