FOP letter to Cincinnati: Test D5 headquarters for mold, radon

FOP to city: Test D5 for mold

CLIFTON, OH (FOX19) - The leader of Cincinnati police's rank and file wrote a letter to City Manager Harry Black Saturday formally asking city officials to look into the conditions of District 5 headquarters in Clifton "to ensure the safety of" the city employees working inside.

Sgt. Dan Hils posted his letter to the Fraternal Order of Police's Facebook page. The letter also was sent via regular mail.

Hils said he wants the city to test the Ludlow Avenue building to see if there are unhealthy levels of black mold. His letter also requests the district be tested for radon - and he wants previous air quality test results.

He has told FOX19 NOW he is concerned over what appears to be a pattern of several officers who have worked at District 5 being diagnosed with cancer, although there is no direct link  or connection to that building.

"I am formally requesting that your office send the results of any and all previous air quality testing of the building at 1012 Ludlow Avenue to the FOP," Hils wrote. "I am also requesting radon and mold testing be administered to ensure the safety of the city employees currently assigned to District Five."

In all, 129 sworn officers and five civilian employees work at District 5.

"The amount of cancer in people that worked at District 5 concerns me greatly," Hils told FOX19 now in an interview earlier this week.

"I worked there and I am concerned first for my brothers and sisters still working there, but also for those of us who have worked there in the past.

"I would like the city to bend over backwards to show concern and transparency in the worries their employees have in this matter."

In response to Hils' letter, a city spokesman released a statement Saturday morning to FOX19 NOW:

"Ensuring the safety of our employees remains a top priority. The City Manager looks forward to receiving and reviewing Mr. Hils letter. Upon this review, any necessary action will be taken quickly to ensure safe working conditions for police officers. We will share additional information as soon as it is available."

The city spokesman, Rocky Merz, said he could not immediately discuss the air quality in District 5 or previous test results.

"We would have access to that information Monday at the soonest," Merz said.

He said Black was not available for interviews Saturday.

This development comes after District 5's  commander told a City Council committee last year the building has mold and mildew coming from the basement vents, a leaky roof, asbestos and mice.

And, last week, Hils exclusively invited and took a FOX19 NOW crew through the building. He pointed out what he said appears to be many of the same problems, along with a persistent bed bug infestation.

In fact, Hils says conditions at District 5 are so bad, he wants all workers to be immediately moved into a temporary facility until the city can build and open a new headquarters.

District 5 has struggled with what Hils and other police officials say are longstanding problems.

Past and present Cincinnati police commanders have worked for decades to get a new District 5 building, to no avail.

Yet, the city still has no definitive plan or money earmarked for the project.

After Hils expressed his concerns in an interview with FOX19 NOW last week, the city manager said in a statement they are "aware of the condition of the building and the fact that something needs to be done. We have been looking at this for quite some time and figuring out how to resolve the budget challenges in the near term."

He has said he intends to incorporate "this item" into the capital improvement budget process which is now just beginning as part of the city's overall 2018 budget to be determined in June.

"We will look at all fiscally feasible and viable options including existing facility assets, allowing us to deal with this in a timely and affordable manner."

On Wednesday, a city spokesman said the city had nothing further to add and Black and Police Chief Eliot Isaac would not be available for interviews about District 5.

Meanwhile, the building was treated this week for bed bugs the seventh time this year, Hils said.

Also, the day after FOX19 NOW cameras went through District 5 on Nov. 16, workers in the city's facility management department "made  site visit and conducted a detailed walk-through," city officials confirmed in a Nov. 18 statement.

"During that visit, Facilities performed standard preventative maintenance services for the HVAC system. This included changing the filter and performing a belt replacement.

"They also inspected the air handling grilles and diffusers. These actions are performed twice a year and were last performed in March. Facilities decided to perform the preventative maintenance Wednesday since they were already on site.

"While on the visit Facilities also completed an existing work order to replace some acoustical ceiling tiles that were damaging toward the end of October during the installation of equipment for the body-worn camera system. Those replacement tiles were only recently received."

"As is the case with all City facilities, janitorial, housekeeping and pest control issues are the responsibility of the respective department that works in the space."

No one has filed a complaint or claim about the building's conditions at District 5 with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation in Columbus, according to an agency spokeswoman.

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