Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Victoria Fowler
Gazette Reporter 

Possible changes coming to ceilings at the courthouse


December 19, 2019

On Monday, Dec. 16, Brandy Dean, county facilities management director, brought ideas of possible changes to the courthouse before the county commissioners at their Monday workshop.

Dean mentioned that with the proposed new HVAC system they are trying to decide what to do with the courthouse ceilings.

“The popcorn ceiling, which is quite a bit of the upstairs and downstairs of the courthouse has asbestos in it,” Dean said. “IRS Environmental came in on Friday. They are going to give us a quote on what it would be to abate the whole building.”

Dean added that included in the abatement would be taking all the ceilings out and a change to a drop-ceiling that would be the same height as the current ceiling.

Asbestos is a group of six naturally occurring fibrous minerals composed of thin, needle-like fibers. Exposure to asbestos can cause cancer and different diseases, including mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Asbestos can also strengthen and fireproof materials.

“The current asbestos is basically encapsulated where it's at, it's not a problem unless it gets disturbed,” Commissioner Art Swannack said. “We have no health issue, that's contained, it's going through this whole HVAC fix that is being proposed to whether all of a sudden there becomes a big environmental cleanup job on the whole building.”

Dean said that if there is a possibility where the city inspector would be concerned that removing all the ceiling and doing a drop-ceiling, there won't be the same fire protection.

“If we can't take the existing ceiling out we are going to have to take a lot of ceiling space away and do a drop-ceiling below the existing ceiling and it's going to be a lot more difficult to do,” Dean said. “We will still have to do abatement, but it'll be spot abatement.”

Swannack asked what the logistics would be in removing the ceilings and how it would impact operations at the courthouse.

“Seventy-five percent of offices in the courthouse would be affected,” Dean said. “These people are very good at what they do and working with businesses like us. They can work nights and weekends to make operations better.”

This project is still up in the air while waiting on a quote from IRS Environmental. Dean said that if it is too expensive then it could be completely off the table.

“They will give us a ballpark estimate right now and see if we can even afford it to move forward,” Dean said. “Once we have more information we will go from there.”


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