Warren County Courthouse Employee: ‘We’re sick, we’re all sick’

WARREN COUNTY, Iowa -- Kathy George has lost her voice -- found it.

"We're sick, we're all sick," George said.

She says she's sick and tired of battling chronic laryngitis and respiratory problems caused by what her doctor says is mold exposure at the Warren County Courthouse where she works as a legal assistant.

"I'm one of three that has been diagnosed with mold exposure, suffering from mold exposure in the county attorney's office."

George started having problems when her work area flooded last year. She lost her voice for nine weeks last fall, then again in the spring.

"And then about three and a half weeks ago, we had flooding again and shortly after that I lost my voice again," George said. "So, this is the third time in less than a year."

George says she also feels fatigued and it hurts to take deep breaths.

Crystal McIntyre, the newest member of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, says the health of the employees at the courthouse is her biggest concern. She says the Board is trying to address the mold, electrical and plumbing problems at the courthouse, but it's not an easy fix.

"It's a lot more than changing a pipe out and running a different line," McIntyre said. "It's a huge, massive project and all I see are dollar signs."

Fans and dehumidifiers in the courtroom are only short-term solutions. The mold was so invasive, it crept across the court reporter's chair. Ceiling tiles still show signs of a leaking roof and faulty plumbing.

McIntyre believes Warren County employees deserve better.

"Their health and their patience have been tried," McIntyre said.

Her fellow Supervisor, Dean Yordi, feels differently.

"I have no reason to believe there’s any problem right now," Yordi said. "We’ve had air quality tests done and there was nothing found that was unhealthy."

In May, Warren County voters turned down a plan to build a new, $35 million jail and justice center. They'll be asked to vote on another, possibly less expensive proposal next year.

"I’m not supporting anything that the people don’t want," Yordi said. "I work for the people so when they tell me what they want, we’ll get it done."

In the meantime, George waits and weighs her options.

"I don’t want to quit my job," George said. "I enjoy my job tremendously, filing a lawsuit is not something I want to do. That’s not me, as a person, but I don’t know what avenue to take at this point."