Air quality issues shut down community room at police station

LACONIA — The Police Department's community room has out of service since July, when it flunked an air quality test performed throughout the building.

The test was in response to some concerns, said Parks and Recreation Department Director Kevin Dunleavy, who administers the city's building maintenance effort.

Lt. Al Lessard said the community room, in the northwest corner of the building, was built on a cement slab that is near the water table level. Like many other buildings in New England, the extreme high amounts of humidity this past summer contributed to the bad poor test results.

"It was like Florida in New Hampshire," Lessard said when commenting yesterday on this past summer's humidity.

He said that when the police station was constructed about 10 years ago, it was not part of the then building codes to insulate the concrete, which this summer led to damp carpets and a few drooping ceiling tiles.

"Until we figure out what we need to do, we decided not to use the community room," Lessard said.

The Police Department community room is used by many different clubs and agencies in Laconia. All of the other spaces in the Police Department are secure and not routinely available for non-police use.

Lessard said that other spaces in the city, like those at the Laconia Public Library and in the Laconia City Hall have hosted the programs that traditionally use the community room.

The Laconia Police Commission typically meets in the community room. Since July, the commission has met in the City Council chambers as it will tomorrow at 3 p.m.

The Laconia Police Community Room was not the only victim of an unusually rainy and humid summer season. The agency with the most severe case of the "humidity blues" is the Winnisquam Regional Middle School that had to delay the start of school by two weeks. One wing of the three-wing school remains closed while the mold and humidity problems are fixed.

So far the city has spent about $6,000 diagnosing the problem in the Police Department and adjusting the the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to improve the air quality in the entire building said Dunleavy. The funds came from the department's building maintenance line.

Three-thousand dollars went to Rist-Frost, Shumway Engineering to diagnose the problem and so far, $3,000 has gone to Central Controls, the company the city uses for all its HVAC-related needs.

Dunleavy said the entire police building is prone to humidity challenges because of the high water table upon which it is built, but the community room is the only place where there was an acute problem.

"We're going to try and clean the rugs and the ceiling tiles," Dunleavy said. "If that doesn't work, we'll look at a different floor."

He said the police department may not know if the adjustments made to the HVAC system work until next spring and summer when the rain and humidity returns.

He said they'll retest the air as the weather cools and dries to determine if they'll use the community room throughout the winter.