County Board agrees to spend $56,000 with Buffalo Grove company to test for mold at Adams County Courthouse

Building and Grounds meeting

Members of the Transportation, Building and Technology Committee, seated at the table at left, meet before a crowd of about 15 people on Tuesday night in the law library at the Adams County Courthouse. | David Adam

QUINCY — The Adams County Board followed the recommendation of the Transportation, Building and Technology Committee on Tuesday and approved a bid of $56,000 from Safestart Environmental of Chicago to test for mold and other contaminants throughout the Adams County Courthouse.

About 15 people — most of them attorneys, judges and employees at the courthouse — attended the six-person committee meeting, held 90 minutes before the County Board meeting. The committee was considering bids from St. Louis-based Fungus-A-Mungus and Safestart Environmental from Buffalo Grove, Ill. 

Quincy attorney Ryan Schnack recently was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory response syndrome, which he says is exacerbated when he works in the courthouse. He told the committee members about five species of mold that are harmful to humans, and two of them were found to be at high levels when he recently sent samples to a New Jersey lab.

“Just to be clear, can I have a show of hands. Who in this room is a mold and fungus expert?” committee member Ryan Hinkamper said. “Nobody? So we have two companies here, and this is what they do for a living. These are the experts. That’s why we have to consider what we have in front of us.”

Not to be deterred, Schnack called Larry Schwartz, chief executive officer of Safestart Environmental. He put Schwartz on his speaker phone and placed the phone on the table where the committee members were seated.

Schwartz convinced the committee to delay spending $25,000 to have the heating and ventilation ducts cleaned, because that could lead to issues with testing.

After about 30 minutes of questions with Schwartz, the committee voted to accept the $56,000 bid that was $10,000 higher than the first option Safestart offered and $14,000 higher than the proposal made by Fungus-A-Mungus. The second option offered surface and air testing, plus it promised identification of problem areas and the source of contaminants.

“We don’t want you to spend any more money than you need to,” Schwartz said. “We want to get it right.”

Schwartz said Safestart could schedule testing to be done in mid-April with a 5-to-7 day turnaround time. He believes the County Board should know by early May about what contamination — if any — was found and what would need to be done for remediation.

The committee’s recommendation was passed unanimously by the full board.

“I’m very pleased,” Schnack said after the committee meeting. “I think Safestart is the right company. Now we’ll move forward and see what problems there are at the courthouse.”

Dave Bellis, chairman of the committee, made the motion to approve the recommendation to the full board. However, he added a caveat that Safestart not be allowed to speak with any courthouse employees except for himself, board chairman Kent Snider and Terry Bower, director of maintenance.

“I thought our committee was on the same page,” Bellis said. “I wasn’t scared to spend the money. I thought we asked a lot of good questions, and we got a lot of good answers.”

Barbara Fletcher, chair of the public health and safety committee, told the County Board that the sheriff’s department recently met with representatives of the U.S. Marshals Service, which has approved for the Adams County Jail to house as many as 30 federal prisoners. The reimbursement rate starts at $75 per day per inmate. 

“It looks like a win-win for the entire county,” Fletcher said.

The sheriff’s department will look into hiring retired deputies to help with transporting federal prisoners to hearings and trials. The county would be reimbursed for travel expenses.

Fletcher said Sheriff Tony Grootens addressed the public health and safety committee about properly equipping all department’s vehicles with car cameras. He is expected to bring a proposal to the March meeting of the County Board.

The County Board also approved:

  • A resolution to appropriate $165,000 toward the improvement of a 2.216-mile portion of County Highway 11 north of Camp Point.
  • The appointment of Jim Pracht to the Liberty Fire Protection District to a three-year term.
  • The appointment of Greg Shierling to the Tri-Township Fire Protection District to a three-year term.
  • A collective bargaining agreement between the Adams County Highway Department and the General Teamsters through Nov. 30, 2025.
  • A plan to add a supervisory position in the Adams County Jail while also adding civilians in the jail’s control room, allowing corrections officers to come out of the control room and walk the floor of the jail.
  • An intergovernmental agreement with the city of Quincy for the lease of a parking lot at 507 Vermont. Improvements to the lot are expected to improve accessibility and allow for more employee parking. Visitor parking on Fifth and Vermont would be increased. Bret Austin, chair of the executive committee, said work approximately $300,000 worth of work will be paid for from a TIF fund.

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