Mold, air-quality issues at Fla. fire stations part of labor dispute

City officials say they've spent millions of dollars building and improving fire stations in recent years


INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — Health and safety concerns are just one part of a prolonged labor dispute after many firefighters say the biggest danger they face is mold in their firehouses.

WPTV reported that recent tests show poor air quality in fire stations and even areas where crews sleep.

"It's dangerous to our crews. Long term exposure to toxic environments like that we're finding out is not conducive to health and wellness," John O'Connor, president of the local firefighters union, said.

Since May, firefighters have been at an impasse with the county over a new contract.

O'Connor says morale is low.

"It's very hard; we're losing quite a few people to surrounding counties. We've lost five people to Indian River Shores," said O'Connor.

Despite the pictures, county leaders say they've spent millions of dollars building and improving fire stations in recent years.

"We've spent $14 million on renovations since 2004. We had 13 bargaining sessions, there was no mention of building conditions," said Indian River County Administrator Joe Baird.

Baird says two station houses will get new roofs in the near future. He disagrees with other union concerns, like the age of some of their vehicles, according to the report.

"I think if you looked across the nation at some of the equipment, you'd see we have some of the newest equipment," said Baird.

Baird says he'd like to see caps on shift swapping and adds right now, there's a waiting list to become a firefighter.

"We've got great employees; they do a great job, but there's only so much money to go around."

A special magistrate will hear both sides then make a non-binding ruling on Thursday, according to the report. Final contract decisions are in the hands of the county commission.

The union has paid for specialized blood testing for some firefighters to see if there have been any ill effects from the mold, according to the report.

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