Janesville59.9°

Downtown postal center temporarily closes

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
August 13, 2008
— The downtown postal service center in the Olde Towne Mall has been temporarily closed while officials wait for the results of air quality tests.

“Our workers have gotten sick. Just to be safe, we have to look at our employee welfare. We can’t put our employees in that situation,” Janesville Postmaster Michael A. Baldocchi said.


But Jackie Wood, co-owner of the Olde Towne Mall, 20 S. Main St., said there’s nothing wrong with the building.


“They have cleaned the mold out of the building except for this storage area we’re working on this week. We have taken the carpet out, ripped out all the drywall and are cleaning up according to the guidelines by FEMA and the federal government,” Wood said.


The lower level of the Olde Towne Mall flooded when the nearby Rock River went over its banks this summer. On Tuesday, whirling fans and humming dehumidifiers could be heard in the postal center from the nearby sub-level atrium.


The postal service center will reopen as soon as practical, Baldocchi said.


Wood said that could be as early as this weekend. She is having the air tested for mold this week.


“I’m happy to test it. We certainly don’t want to endanger anybody,’’ Wood said.


But Wood is upset with the way Baldocchi handled the temporary closing. She said nobody would be endangered by keeping the post office boxes open.


“He’s inconveniencing customers in the downtown,” Wood said, “and that upsets me to no end.”


Wood said city officials went through the downtown building two weeks ago and told Wood it was fine. She wasn’t required to do a mold test but agreed to do so Monday when postal worker Karen Brown asked her if she would.


Baldocchi said closing the service center is a necessary inconvenience.


“For us to send somebody back in there is not in our best interest at this time. It’s more of a precaution and whether it is related to the air or not, I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. We’re playing it safe until they figure out what’s going on,’’ he said.


Brown suspects mold in the air is to blame for her sore, scratchy throat that turned into cold-like symptoms and then tightness in her chest in recent days.


Brown went to see a doctor Monday, and he gave her an inhaler.


“He didn’t want to say it was definitely from mold,’’ Brown said.


But Brown thinks it could be. She said she had no symptoms before workers began tearing out flooring and walls three weeks ago.


“I was concerned when they were doing this stuff with the mold and wondering, ‘Should they be taking precautions?’ Today, it smells like bleach. Before, the odor was real musty. It’s got worse,’’ Brown said.


Brown learned of the closing at noon Tuesday.


“Everybody is disappointed,” she said. “I really feel bad for the customers, but we have to look out for the health of the employees.”


POSTAL OPTIONS

Although the downtown postal service center in the Olde Towne Mall is temporarily closed, Janesville Postmaster Michael A. Baldocchi said the self-service stamp vending machine at the service center will remain operational.


Customers with post office boxes downtown can pick up their mail at a lobby window dedicated specifically to them at the main post office, 1818 Milton Ave., Janesville.


Baldocchi said anyone with questions can call (608) 754-0062.



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