BLUFF CITY - High concentrations of black mold forced city leaders and workers out of their offices in Bluff City three years ago.
This November, they will inhabit a new City Hall that doesn't come in on wheels and will be the first sound structure they will enter in nearly 78 years.
Town Recorder Judy Dulaney recalls days of indoor cascading waterfalls near precious town documents - an unfortunate circumstance of an office building still occupied after its initial 1929 construction.
The city will break ground for a new municipal building complex on Friday beginning at 10 a.m. Mayor Bob Thomas said the all-inclusive center is a long time coming.
"We had already started accumulating funds because we were running out of space in our old Town Hall," Thomas said Tuesday.
"We had collected nearly $80,000 when the issue of black mold came to our attention, and at that point we were forced to go ahead and put the new building project on a fast track," he said.
Dulaney said a special firm conducted various tests in and out of the former City Hall, and those results concluded high black mold spore counts. Mold was also visible upon the walls and ceilings, making some employees sick.
"We did have one of our employees seek medical attention, and (the doctors) said it was most likely the black mold that was causing the problems," Dulaney said.
Modular units were brought in so Bluff City operations could continue, housing town offices and the police department.
Those rolling dwellings have been the government's home for the past three years.
"I can say that the health of our workers has improved since we left the old Town Hall, so it definitely helped getting out. It was determined that the age and the conditions inside contributed to the black mold," Dulaney said.
"It wasn't near condemnation, but simply put, it was uninhabitable," Thomas said.
The new center will measure 5,300 square feet in size and will house all town operations.
BLS Architects of Kingsport is overseeing design and construction of the building.
City court, the police department and day-to-day city operations will now be based at one location - a far cry from the dead end of Railroad Street where trailers currently stand, the exact location of Bluff City's old sewage plant.
"A unique design feature is that the court space can be converted to community use for dinners, receptions, large meetings et cetera, with facilities and space for catering and other amenities. The city and police space is cordoned off for security and can function while community activities take place," said BLS architect Don Solt.
The new location also offers Bluff City an opportunity for expansion .
Thomas noted that the original scale of the project had to be whittled down because of price constraints, but the finished product - which will cost the town an estimated $812,500 - will be something special.
"We think it will be something worthy to call home for the town, something that residents will be proud of," the mayor said.