Black mold sickens New Paltz Town Hall employees

Zoning and Planning Board secretary Kelly O'Donnell discovered the black mold in the basement of the Town Hall. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Zoning and Planning Board secretary Kelly O’Donnell discovered the black mold in the basement of the Town Hall. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The recent discovery of a sickness-inducing black mold at the New Paltz Town Hall has quickened supervisor Susan Zimet’s search for town government facilities.

The still-unidentified mold — results of an air-quality test are still pending — has reportedly caused health problems for town employees for over a year. At a special Town Board meeting held on Thursday, September 4, ailments including rashes, sinus problems and breathing issues were reported.


Zoning and Planning Board secretary Kelly O’Donnell claimed that after an hour spent looking at files in the basement, “I couldn’t breathe and my eyes were bad.” “There’s not a day that goes by,” she added, “where we’re not hitting up the first aid kit for ibuprofen.” According to Zimet, O’Donnell’s problems disappeared while she was on vacation, but returned when she did.

Lynn Bowdery, who works with computers, says that air from the basement is cycled into her office to keep the computer servers cool. “I’ve had a lot of difficulties,” she said. “When they pulled up the carpet in my office, I had a rash for a year.” “I had terrible chest pain,” she added.

The health effects follow the workers off the job. “My headache was so bad I had to get up at 5 o’clock this morning to take an aspirin,” Zimet said earlier on Thursday.

Though the mold seems to have been present in the former American Legion Hall — which Zimet and others attribute to poor ventilation and moisture leakage, among other causes — recent construction of a wall appears to have kicked it into the air.

Concerns about the suitability of the building go back to a 1995 plan to build an entirely new Town Hall that were apparently shelved. Zimet brandished them at the meeting to make her point.

The air quality inspector, she said, advised the staff not to go into the basement until the mold is removed.

While temporary solutions are being sought, Zimet would prefer a long-term one.

The Town of New Paltz is currently looking at several properties, among them one that the town Police Department is leasing on South Putt Corners Road. Zimet would like to buy the office space if possible.

She and the town are still considering other options. At the meeting, Zimet put out an open call for public suggestions on the matter.

Though smaller spaces might be more immediately available, they would split up the town employees. “The goal is to keep us all together for the efficiency of the town government,” Zimet said.