News: Mysterious Illness Plagues City Hall in North Bay Village

Two fold-up tables and a teacher’s desk inside an elementary school cafeteria made up the dais for the exiled North Bay Village Commission this past Tuesday.

For a week all village operations have had to occur outside of the City Hall complex after four people working inside fell ill for an unknown reason.

Miami-Dade Hazardous Materials Response units were unable to determine the cause of the sudden sickness in two separate sweeps, and until the reason is located City Hall is mostly off limits.

The sudden loss of a headquarter has lead the village administration to scramble to regain normal operations, including the Police Department who shares the building.

Since the Hazmat team turned up nothing, a more detailed pass is needed, and that fall to the hands of Industrial Hygienists. According to City Manager Denis Kelly, such experts will cost the city anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000. Those are the early numbers for the initial tests. That number could rise depending on what the results show, and what a solution might entail. The funding might come from the city’s insurance which is provided by the League of Cities. How much the city or it’s insurance will pay is complicated further since the city rents space on the bottom floor of the Lexi condominium.

Some residents at the Tuesday commission meeting argued that the bill should fall on feet of the building’s owner Scott Greenwald. He disagrees, and holds firm that the situation at city hall was “not caused by the Lexi.”

“In no way is the Lexi responsible for this,” he said at the commission meeting.

Because no residents have complained with similar symptoms, the landlord contends that the cause must be centrally localized within the City Hall complex.

Greenwald recently made news by filing a lawsuit against NBV when his strip club complex was held up with city hall red tape. The suit was a lengthy one involving several filings and an appeal. It eventually went into mediation.

For now the two sides are playing nice. The city’s legal department asserts that all notices to verbal and written have been made to Greenwald. Greenwald in turn allowed a makeshift command center in the Lexi’s community center.

Still the village needs to find a temporary home, and as of print time were in talks to rent three suites at the Causeway Towers. The initial agreement has a minimum of two months rent with a 30 day termination notice. So a minimum of a three month responsibility. According to Kelly, the results from the first initial test by the industrial hygienists would take about two weeks. Any solution might go in to months, depending on what they find.

“Our hope is that everything is simple and there are no gases,” said Kelly.

The situation was reported by the administration to several agencies, but not the Health Department. A sore point with Mayor Connie Leon-Kreps who says she had asked for it. She started her remarks at the meeting concerned over the well being of the residents.

“I want to insure every step is taken and measure is taken in order to insure that the health status of the employees and residents,” said the Mayor.

Kelly said he would notify the Health Department. The oversight might be attributed to sudden surprise of the situation and that no emergency plan was drafted for this scenario. Although such plans exists in the cases of terrorism or hurricanes.

This was an oversight that did not sit well with Dulce Noguera.

“You call all the people instead of the health department?,” she asked.

She took the commission to task for not taking more steps like notifying the residents of that building.

“If you lived there wouldn’t you want to know?,” she later told the SunPost.

The SunPost confirmed with Greenwald that no notice had been sent to the residents. He added that the Hazmat team cleared the building twice, and that it was hard to not know with all the commotion.

Still Noguera, an NBV resident since 1990, thought it was an error in judgment. She also took exception to the administration’s decision of letting employees into the building to retrieve computer equipment.

Which they did, according to the Village, in pairs and less than five minute intervals.

“They are more concerned with insurance than individuals,” she said.

Kelly couldn’t stop beaming on how wonderful his staff had been the past week. The city manager also bragged how despite the challenges they were able to rig up a communications center to service the village; they even processed a couple of permits.

“They have been exceptional,” Kelly said of his staff.

About Frank Maradiaga

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