October 28, 2009 Edition

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WR meeting addresses mold issue

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council held a special meeting on Tuesday night to hear a report from Dan Melton, a house inspector from Home Integrities. He had completed an inspection of a house located at 910 Northeast Second Street and owned by Bret and Michelle Sheets of Walnut Ridge.

The Sheets family has attended the last two regular council meetings and informed the council that water from the city's pool has leaked and been drained onto their property, causing black mold and other damages that have made their home unsafe to live in.

They said their son, Dillon, age 7, was having severe health issues until their doctor told them the mold in their home was causing his problems. The Sheets family has lived with her parents, Stanley and Henrietta Williams, for the past year, while they are still making mortgage payments on a house they cannot live in.

Henrietta Williams, Michelle's mother, said it is a family home, lived in by her mother and deeded to her, and then deeded by her to her daughter.

They have asked the city to pay them the $18,000 they owe against the home and use the property for a parking lot or some type of addition to the city park.

Melton told the council that his air samplings show there are 18 types of mold present in the home, but cannot say that water from the pool caused the damage. A lot of houses have these same molds, and some people are more allergic to them than others. He added that there is no normal count when it comes to mold.

"The house is at the lower end of the street near the pool," he said. " There is water standing behind the house on the south side of the pool.

"Inside there are ceiling tiles down with water marks which appear to have been made by leaks in the roof. The floor was somewhat spongy like those in an aged home would be."

Melton explained that many things cause mold to grow including the amount of moisture in the air, a faulty heating and air conditioning unit, temperatures and many other naturally occurring factors. Standing water is one of those factors.

"There is no way I can tell you how long it has taken the mold to grow or that I can tell you what caused it. There are too many factors that come into play, including the materials the home was built with," Melton told the council. "There are a lot of 'what ifs' in dealing with this."

Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin asked if mold can grow in chlorinated water, and Melton told him if would depend on the amount of chlorine and other chemicals in the water.

"Is there anyone in your line of business who can tell us what caused the damage to this house?" Alderwoman Paula Haskins asked. "If the city pool caused this problem, then I want to pay them for their damages but we need a way to prove it's been caused by the pool."

Melton said he knew of no one who could tell them absolutely what caused the mold or the damage to the home.

Alderman Johnnie Fears asked the family why they had waited so long to bring this to the attention of the council.

Mrs. Williams said, "We just found out from the doctor that the house was causing Dillon's health problems. We don't like to cause trouble and hate to complain, but now we have to do something."

She said that she had watched the city pool being drained into the back yard of the home, and that leaks were also constantly occurring and pouring water from the pool into the yard.

Alderman Dirk Davis said, "I want to express to Bret and Michelle that I think what has happened to them is very unfortunate. I'm not 100 percent convinced the pool caused all this, but if I could be convinced it was the responsibility of the city's pool, I would be glad for the council to assist you with this problem."

Mayor Michelle Rogers said without absolute proof, there is nothing the city can do.

Michelle Sheets then asked the council if they would consider just buying the property and use it for something that would benefit the town.

Davis made a motion that the council take no action now but suggested that they explore the possibility of a grant that would allow them to buy the property and use it for the park. "It's not feasible for the city to buy the property right now," he said. "It's not our money, it belongs to the citizens of Walnut Ridge."

He also told the family that a grant would take at least a year or longer if one was available, so there could be no quick solution.

The council voted to pursue a grant to possibly buy the property.

In other business the council voted to narrow an easement on property belonging to Alamo Courts, Inc. Charles Snapp told the council that he wants to build a fence around the property following a recent attack on an employee by pit bulls, and a mistake made by the city when the streets were redone in the 1970s is causing a problem with his property lines.

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