Pender court clerks report ‘sick-building syndrome’

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PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Hurricane damage has put the Pender County Courthouse out of service for almost seven months. The courts have been operating out of the Frances Dawson Basden Judicial Annex, but some clerks claim “sick building syndrome” is keeping them out of work.

Pender County Clerk of Superior Court Elizabeth Craver says she had a hygienist visit the building. The hygienist used the term to describe the state of the building as everyone getting sick in the building daily and not knowing why they’re getting sick.

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“I started having sinus issues when we moved into this building,” Assistant Clerk Roxanne Parker said.

Parker is one of 15 employees complaining of sickness since Pender County court started operating out of the judicial annex.

“The county had [an industrial hygienist] come in, in October,” Clerk of Superior Court Elizabeth Craver said. “They did the air quality in here and found it was poor air quality.”



But, after a follow up assessment a few weeks later, the hygienist determined it was acceptable air quality.

Craver says she had her own hygienist visit the site, after questioning the results of the test. That hygienist named the issue “sick-building syndrome.”

“My clerks have went to the doctor several times and come back with diagnosis of sinus issues,” Craver said. “From the headaches and nose bleeds, they think it is something environmentally related.”

Assistant County Manager Chad McEwen says they are taking steps to help.

“The long term plan is that we’ll give keys over to the clerk this week to the Riverstine annex,” McEwen said. “It’s across the street from the courthouse. The building is being completely renovated and that will be the office for the court clerk and her staff.”

Craver adds another issue: the clerks must visit the courthouse at least 10 to 15 times a day to get files. It still has hurricane damage which adds to their exposure to potential environmental hazards.

“Three of the prior clerks have all had tests and investigations done at that courthouse over health issue finding thyroids, and sinus problems,” Craver said. “It was all pretty much the same thing going on here. [The annex and courthouse] are older buildings, and both of them have a lot of issues.”

Craver says she plans to meet with the county Thursday to find a safer and healthier solution.

McEwen says the bid package to repair the courthouse is being worked on now with hopes to get it out to bid in the next 30 days.