Oxford officials consider air-quality options in city hall

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal file Officials say they'll likely replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems at Oxford City Hall.

Thomas Wells | Daily Journal file
Officials say they’ll likely replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems at Oxford City Hall.

By Errol Castens

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Officials say they’ll probably replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system system at City Hall early in 2015.

The decision comes in response to an air quality test undertaken after an ongoing discussion of allergies among City Hall employees. The test, conducted by Memphis-based Environmental Test and Balance Co., showed some potential allergens, but nothing surprising for a system in place since the early 1970s.

“We found out it’s about as we expected,” said Bart Robinson, director of public works.

“It’s no more than what you’d find in any other old building,” said Billy Lamb, director of buildings and grounds. “We’ve got some old stuff, and old stuff means it’s dirty.”

Robinson said a mechanical contractor estimated the system could be cleaned for about $50,000, but the incomplete nature of the fix and the potential efficiency gains in new equipment – estimated to cost about $300,000 – made replacement seem more reasonable.

Among the organisms noted in the report were several fungi, including cladosporium, “the most important fungal airway allergen which can lead to the cause of allergies and chronic asthmatic-like conditions.” The report noted, however, that “every individual will not react in the same way to all species found” and that “there are no true standards set as to what constitutes a possibly hazardous situation regarding the presence of yeast, mold and bacteria.”

Tests for carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, ozone, hydrocarbons, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and total particulate counts showed results well below current standards.

The issue was brought to public attention in December, when the Board of Aldermen gave initial approval to the demolition of the old armory building at University Avenue and Bramlett Boulevard. Mayor Pat Patterson noted then that the building should be preserved in case it became necessary to vacate City Hall to remedy air quality issues.

“I don’t think it’ll have any bearing on the demolition of the armory now,” Robinson said. “I’ll get moving with that as soon as they give me the green light. I think everybody wants to demolish it.”

errol.castens@journalinc.com