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County to file insurance claim for cleaning moldy books

LISBON –Columbiana County Commissioner Tim Weigle said he is going to submit an insurance claim for the money spent to clean county recorder books that became covered in mold while stored in Mahoning County.

Weigle reported after a recent board meeting they have spent $17,206, which includes the cost of transporting the now-cleaned 2,000 books back from Great Value Storage (GVS) in Boardman to the basement of the county elections board, where they are temporarily being stored.

He is doing so even though the insurance policy purchased by county Recorder Theresa Bosel appears to exclude coverage for any damage caused by mold or mildew.

Commissioner Jim Hoppel said during the meeting he thought Bosel stated the storage units she rented from GVS were climate controlled. Weigle said he spoke with GVS officials, who told him they only promised the units would be temperature controlled, which is not the same thing.

Climate controlled means the humidity is regulated to prevent what occurred from happening. “When you get a lot of humidity, you get moisture and mold will grow,” Weigle said.

This was disputed by Bosel. “I was told unequivocally that these units were climate controlled. I did my due diligence and called no less than 20 storage facilities. GVS assured me they would take good care of the books through their climate control system,” she said.

Bosel provided a photograph of the outside of the units and a sticker that states “Climate Control Area. Please Keep Door Closed.”

As for the insurance policy, Bosel said she had a difficult time finding coverage. “No one would insure them, so I had to use their insurance,” she said.

The books were moved to GVS by Bosel from her space in the county courthouse in 2017. This was done to make room for more public access to the recorder’s office and to provide a safer home for the records since she had them digitized.

In the summer of 2019, Weigle said Bosel told commissioners many of the stored books had mold on them and needed rehabilitated, and she said it could cost $170,000, but presented them with no plan to address the problem. When no plan was ever provided, Weigle agreed to meet Bosel at GVS and found some of the mold-covered books sitting on the floor. Weigle took mold samples for testing and they came back positive for two of the most dangerous types of mold.

After seeking advice from the county health department, he contacted Farsight Management to clean the books and store them in totes for the trip back Lisbon. Weigle was originally quoted $9,000 but many of the older clothbound books were found to be in worse shape than originally expected and required more extensive cleaning.

Bosel continued to dispute Weigle’s portrayal of events.

“Mr.Weigle’s relationship with the truth is tenuous at best. My opinion is that he is a pathological liar, using my personal tragedy to make himself look like a hero in an election year. I find it pathetic and it speaks volumes of his character,” she said.

Bosel is charged with involuntary manslaughter in Mahoning County Municipal Court in Canfield for the August 2019 traffic accident that claimed the life of 69-year-old Cecil Chamberlain. She has pleaded not guilty, and her pretrial hearing has been moved to April 17 because of the coronavirus.

When asked for comment on Bosel’s criticism of him, Weigle said, “I feel sorry for her.”

As for taking on the project to make himself look good while up for re-election this year, Weigle pointed out he is running unopposed.

Bosel reiterated that she “begged” commissioners for help, which leads to the responsibility issue. Bosel said commissioners are, but Weigle has said before the recorder is in charge of the condition of the books, and the commissioners are responsible for providing storage for the records. Hoppel said before that the decision to relocate all records from the courthouse to GVS was Bosel’s and done without their approval.

Bosel said she had scheduled a meeting with GVS when Weigle interjected himself into the situation. Instead of helping, “he was trying to sabotage me once again,” she said.

“I wasn’t trying to sabotage her. I was trying to save the books” after Bosel made no real effort to do so on her own, he said.

In related news Weigle said they have addressed odor issues blamed on the books stored in the basement of the elections board, which reportedly affected some of the employees. He said the problem occurred during the time while they were in process of moving the 2,000 books to the basement. The books, stored on shelves, are now being kept under a sealed plastic tent and with a dehumidifier and air purifier, and Weigle said that has corrected the problem.

Elections board director Kim Fusco said the smell was like mold and noticeable. “We have a couple of employees with allergies and they began coughing and sneezing,” she said, adding the odor is gone.

“They promised they would take care of it and the have,” she said.

Weigle believes the smell was coming from the clothbound older books, many of which date back to the 1800s. While there is no physical evidence of mold, he may cut off a snippet of the cloth and send it away to be tested “for safety’s sake.”

Weigle also reported they received a bill in February for $625 from GVS stating rent for the storage units and insurance was three months overdue. The figure included late fees and other related expenses. He said GVS also installed its own lock on the units and was preparing to auction off the contents unless the bill was paid.

Weigle said he went to recorder’s office and Bosel was not there, but the staff found a payment check Bosel had written to GVS sitting on her desk. He was told Bosel was withholding payment until the dispute was resolved. The check was sent and they are now current on payments.

tgiambroni@mojonews.com

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