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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The air quality in part of Narragansett Town Hall has deteriorated so much that the Town Council recently approved $150,000 in emergency repairs to remedy the situation.

Abcore Restoration Co., Inc. and Automatic Temperature Controls are contracted to perform the work, estimated to cost $149,482.

The council unanimously approved the work Aug. 24.

As a result, the finance offices, including the tax collector and assessor’s offices, closed to the public on Wednesday and will reopen Sept. 15.

Staff will work remotely, if possible, and will be available for phone calls or by appointment. Any payments or correspondence can be mailed or placed in the drop box located outside of Town Hall.

The specific problem at Town Hall is that a high level of moisture in the lower level, in the finance wing, has created low air quality levels, and led to moisture clinging to equipment, furnishings and documents.

“Finance has extremely high levels of moisture downstairs, and we’ve got air conditioners and dehumidifiers going constantly, and it’s simply not getting the job done,” Town Manager James Tierney said.

“You go down there and pick up a paper on a desk, it’s all soggy. It’s unbelievable,” Tierney said.

It’s caused areas of mold development, and employees in the finance wing have experienced headaches and respiratory issues, he said.

Wetness on furniture, carpeting and equipment could also cause damage, according to a memo by Deputy Director of Public Works Stephen Daignault Jr.

The finance wing has been running de-humidifiers and four air conditioners constantly, between 68 and 70 degrees, in order to lessen the moisture, but with little success.

“There is an immediate need to resolve this issue for the safety of the staff and the general public,” Daignault said.

Automatic Temperature Controls, Inc. recommended the town install a professional, commercial quality grade HVAC system.  

At the same time, Daignault said, the work allows the town to improve ventilation and increase the total airflow supply and the percentage of outdoor air – one of the main recommendations for re-opening businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A new HVAC system with (ultraviolet) disinfection can provide that ventilation. Every microorganism, including coronavirus, requires a specific UVC dosage for inactivation. The recommended HVAC system has the UV disinfection system that will also reduce mold and other pathogens.”

According to the memo, the expenses for the HVAC system will be submitted to FEMA for reimbursement for eligible items. The reimbursement could be up to 75% of the total cost of the HVAC project.

Simultaneously with the air system work, the town will undertake renovations that, Daignault said, will streamline the productivity and efficiency of the Finance Department.

Funding for the project comes from the Public Works Department Capital Projects Account, Town Hall Renovations.

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