“Very Frustrating. There were discussions but no major corrections at that point.”
“She did everything that she could possibly do. I think the county council shirked their responsibility concerned with the political fallout in talking about spending that amount of money.” said Chief Justice Beatty.
Councilman Roger Nutt says Spartanburg County had been strapped by a recession and a loss of millions of dollars in state funds. But he maintains the county never ignored the problem.
“We tried to fix everything we could as we saw them and as they came up,” said Councilman Nutt.
It wasn’t until the beginning of 2016 that the county ordered more extensive testing. So 7News wondered what finally moved the county to take action?
Through the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA, we uncovered a December 2015 letter to the Chief Justice at the time. It was written by a judge who had filed his own FOIA request to see the Clerk’s 2014 air quality test.
That’s when Judge Roger Couch learned about his courtroom.
“It had the worst air in the courthouse. I didn’t feel good about that,” said Judge Couch.
Judge Couch’s letter explained how he had requested a meeting with County Council but “have not been afforded the opportunity to meet with such members.”
“I was mainly wanting someone to come test the place,” said Judge Couch.
We asked him: Had the county been resistant to that?
“It had not happened. Discussions had taken place about the problem. But I didn’t see much being done about it,” he said.
Once the judges did meet with county council members, here’s what Councilman Nutt says they were told.
“The judges basically said we’re going to put signs on the door that there’s mold in here and it’s um, horrible, or whatever. And the panic of that alone was going to be a problem obviously for our county employees,” said Councilman Nutt.
We asked Councilman Nutt why it came to that.
“Just speaking personally, I don’t think it should have come that far,” he responded.
Nutt says it was then the council fully realized the fixes were just band-aids for a building that needed surgery.
In early 2016 the county ordered extensive testing followed by two mold remediations under containment and more testing. The pricetag, more than $600-thousand dollars.
JMAC told 7News and the county the remediation is a temporary fix, 3 years at best, buying time for the county to come up with a more permanent plan.
“To fix it is to replace it in my opinion,” said Nut.
7News found both sides, including all of county council, now agree the only permanent solution is to build a new courthouse.
Nutt showed us the study already underway to make it a reality, and explained how the county has requested this phase be completed as soon as possible.
The question now is where will the money come from?
“There’s going to have to be a tax increase,” said Nutt.
Just how much remains to be seen. The voters will have the final verdict on whether a new courthouse will be built.
That’s when those who work here every day hope taxpayers will understand the need for justice to be served.