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Work aims for ‘mold-free’ US courthouse in north Mississippi

(AP) — Renovation will begin this fall at a federal courthouse in northern Mississippi that had to be shut down in 2017 because of mold, a news station reported.

The work at the Thomas G. Abernethy Federal Building in Aberdeen will cost about $12 million, WCBI-TV reported.

“It feels wonderful to be ready to get started with construction and finish it. I think we’re going to have a beautiful building. It’s going to be clean, nice, mold free,” Chief Judge Sharion Aycock said last week.

Trouble started in the summer of 2016, when the building had air conditioning problems and mold developed. A crew did remediation work that fall, but problems persisted, and courthouse employees experienced allergies and other respiratory problems.

Employees of the Abernethy building were moved temporarily to a separate building that houses a federal bankruptcy court in Aberdeen. They have been working more than a year in a rented building in Amory.

Renovation at Abernethy should begin in September or October and be finished by early 2021, according to WCBI.

To help pay for the project, the court partnered with the General Services Administration and Tennessee Valley Authority to get a utility energy service contract to replace mold-infected heating and air conditioning systems. The work will include improvements for energy efficiency.

“To do this type of contract, anything you do you have to have an energy savings component to it,” said GSA project manager John Bradley.

The cost of the project is high, but Aycock said it’s more practical than the alternative.

“So many people have inquired why not build a new courthouse? Well, we are building a courthouse on a shoestring in Greenville, and it’s a $40 million project. So no, we could not build a new courthouse, so we just had to do the next best thing,” Aycock said.

The courthouse is a point of pride for Aberdeen, and Aycock said it was important to keep it there.

“We are in a rural part of the state. We look for industry and economic development assets. Work that the courthouse generates — the business, the comings and going, the salaries that are generated by court employees — is one of Monroe County’s largest industries,” Aycock said.

Since February 2018, civil trials that would have been at the Abernethy federal building have been held at the U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse in Aberdeen, and all criminal trials are at the federal district courthouse in Oxford.

Aycock said people working on the renovation will “clean every single item, down to the pencils (and) books.