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Problems at Archuleta courthouse force move to Durango

Air-quality tests to be conducted after workers fall ill
The control room of the Archuleta County Courthouse and Detention Center flooded in 2015 and forced the jail to close. The flood has caused some county employees to become sick, prompting county officials to close the entire building and move operations elsewhere until tests can determine what’s wrong.

A mysterious pathogen, suspected to be airborne, in the Archuleta County Courthouse has forced court proceedings and operations to be shifted to the La Plata County Courthouse in Durango.

In addition, Archuleta County’s offices for its sheriff, treasurer, assessor and county clerk, located in an adjacent and adjoining building to the courthouse will be closed Monday to conduct a broad array of air-quality tests in an effort to define exactly what is causing bouts of illness among workers in the building, said Archuleta County Administrator Bentley Henderson. The Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office has already moved out of its normal offices.

“We haven’t nailed down the issue,” Henderson said in a telephone interview Friday.

The tests will help the county finally identify what is causing the illnesses among the building’s employees.

“We’ll conduct a broad battery of tests that will give us something to work off,” he said.

Tests will be conducted in the courthouse beginning Monday and continuing at least through Wednesday. Henderson said the courts will have industrial hygienists conduct tests on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Some tests will provide results relatively quickly, but other tests might take some time before results are received, he said.

The Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office moved its operations out of the building on Wednesday, and the courts moved operations to Durango on Thursday, he said.

Henderson estimated about 60 to 75 people work in the courthouse and the adjacent and adjoining building.

One person has been hospitalized because of an illness suspected to be associated with the building’s problems, Henderson confirmed. He declined further comment.

Henderson said symptoms range from watery eyes to “more severe symptoms.”

Complaints have been received since the building flooded in 2015.

The building, he said, has sustained challenges since the flooding – especially with air circulation and the comfort level within it. But he said, “It was really difficult to say it is tied to the flood.”

Moving court operations to Durango also affects probation operations and the court clerk’s operation, but Archuleta County is looking to return some of these functions to Pagosa Springs sometime next week.

“Over the course of years, we’ve had intermittent issues with semi-chronic respiratory issues, and we want to err on the side of caution,” Henderson said.

Henderson estimated that by the end of next week, Archuleta County would have enough information to be in a better position to make some decisions on how to move forward with the building.

Henderson expressed his appreciation to La Plata County and the patience of the public as Archuleta County strives to mitigate and deal with the challenges it faces in its courthouse.

“We really want to fix this as soon as we can,” he said.

parmijo@durangoherald.com

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