St. Charles Parish attorney Leon "Sunny" Vial has withdrawn his services from the Paradis Library in connection with a mold problem at the new branch.
Vial told head librarian Mary desBordes that his decision was based on the fact that the library retained the services of Quality Janitorial and Restoration Service to remediate the mold problem without informing him. The mold growth was discovered late last year and has forced the Paradis branch to close their children’s activity room.
In a letter to Vial, desBordes wrote that the architect and contractor are liable for correcting the problem, but due to their inaction for three months, she had to do something for the safety of the library patrons. The library installed air scrubbers and dehumidifiers this year, which desBordes said greatly lowered mold levels.
However, Vial said that decision strongly compromised the library’s ability to collect from those responsible for the problem. He added that he was working with the library on the issue and was never told that the library would perform mold remediation and only discovered it after the fact. He said that the library spent $55,000 to perform inspections and rent equipment for an 83-day period.
"It would have been better to shut the library down for that period," Vial said. "That would have prevented library patrons from being exposed to mold and would have improved the chances to collect from those responsible."
Vial said that the problem was caused by two air conditioning units that were installed in the wrong rooms. The Paradis Library air conditioning system was also supposed to automatically raise and lower the temperature, but the system never worked correctly, Vial said.
DesBordes would not comment on Vial’s decision to withdraw his services, only saying that the library will now have to pay for outside counsel. While the parish owns the library building, the Library Board is an autonomous board and the parish is not under any obligation to provide it legal representation, according to parish spokeswoman Renee Simpson.
DesBordes said that late last year staffers discovered that excess moisture was entering the library and causing mold to grow. DesBordes said she immediately contacted the contractor who built the library and had a number of tests performed that examined both air quality levels and the inside of the library’s walls.
"Other than in the children’s activity room, which we have shut off for this period, there was nothing toxic in the rest of the library," she said.
The problem takes on added significance because the West Regional Library in Luling will close in June for renovations. The renovations are expected to last about seven months and the Paradis branch is the closest alternative for patrons during that time period.
One Luling resident, Cheryl Hartman, said she visited the Paradis branch to see if it would meet her needs while the Luling branch is going through renovations and was shocked at all the air scrubbing equipment on the Paradis Library floor.
"The unresolved mold problem at the Paradis Library is inexcusable," Hartman said. "For months it has created an environmental health hazard for staff and patrons. Mold spreads, sickens and kills yet the library has remained opened."
DesBordes has vowed to have the Paradis mold problem under control before the Luling library undergoes renovations in June.
"We’ve told the contractor and the architect that we have to have the Paradis problem corrected by June," desBordes said. "We have made that clear to them and we will take whatever actions necessary to make that happen."