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WILMINGTON — Exasperated with mold in their residence, a family is seeking appropriate remediation or a new place to live. 

Town Health Officer Jessica Roberts said the owner of 247 Route 100 North couldn't make it to a special Select Board meeting Thursday, where their predicament was discussed. She noted the downstairs is being rented by Sarah and David Adams, and a short-term rental discovered in the residence isn't permitted yet. 

An employee of the state of Vermont asked Roberts if she had condemned the apartment rented by the Adamses, who were seeking an emergency housing voucher to live elsewhere. She started as zoning administrator/health officer in Wilmington in September and said she didn't know anything about the apartment.

Roberts went through files kept at the town office to see if the apartment had been condemned. She said town officials assured her it had not. 

"That's a pretty serious thing," she said. "I cannot condemn a building as town health officer." 

Roberts said a state fire marshal received an electric complaint at the property and asked her to perform a joint inspection in February then she developed a list of items to be corrected at the residence. She had hoped for a reinspection to occur on April 1. However, she told the board, she received repeated phone calls from the owner saying the tenants weren't allowing access. 

Later, Roberts said, both parties told her they were ready. Seven items need to be fixed and the owner was given 30 days before another inspection. 

The owner is willing to correct the issues and the fire marshal ordered a structural evaluation of the building, said Roberts, who doesn't believe the building needs to be condemned. She's given the owner, the property investment firm My Three Sons LLC, until June 15 to correct seven items including cleaning dirty areas where mildew or mold is visible, adding trim around a door where daylight to the outside is clearly visible, and repairing a wall where wood rot and water damage is visible. 

Board Chairman Tom Fitzgerald asked the couple why they didn't move out if the mold is so bad. 

"We're trying," Sarah said, but the family doesn't want to leave Wilmington.

David brought mold to show the board. He accused former zoning administrator Mike Tuller, who now is town administrator in Jamaica, of signing off on an inaccurate inspection report on the property before it was sold to a new owner while they were living there. Reached by phone, Tuller said issues he wanted corrected had been. 

Roberts said she reached out to Tuller and he told her he never put in an application for emergency housing for the family, which the Reformer confirmed (he said it wasn't in his purview), but he did order a mold test. Now, she said, the state isn't recommending that course of action. 

In a letter about an inspection report from July 2021, Tuller recommended emergency housing. He wrote that conditions in the basement apartment "arguably fall into a category as unfit and unhealthy living conditions for adults and/or children. The evidence of what appears to be significant mold growth in the home places a greater importance in finding alternative accommodations for the family."

Vermont Department of Health protocol for addressing mold calls for addressing water infiltration and moisture, town officials said Thursday. 

"The mold typically can be cleaned with soap and water," Town Manager Scott Tucker said. 

"Not the molds being found in my house," David said. 

Roberts said she looks for water and holes when she inspects buildings then she'll ask the owner to make appropriate repairs. Professional removal of the mold isn't required unless it is of a certain size, she said.

"They are receptive to everything," Roberts said of the owners. "They fixed almost everything. The laundry room still has some holes and water damage." 

After David became disruptive at Thursday's meeting, he was asked to leave. Roberts said she has asked for a police officer to join her at future inspections after experiencing aggression from the couple. 

Fitzgerald on Thursday and Tuller in 2021 noted the difficulty the family would have in finding housing with all the pets they have, such as dogs, birds, a cat, a boa constrictor and an iguana. Fitzgerald also noted how basements can be very damp. 

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"We're going to support the laws as they are set here by the state of Vermont," Fitzgerald said. "We can't change them."

David Fontaine, chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Panel at Change the Air Foundation, told the board he and his wife faced a similar situation in Ferrisburgh. Since then, he's become an advocate for indoor air quality. 

Fontaine said the Adamses were reluctant to allow people into their residence because the work should be done to industry standards and they worried the planned repairs wouldn't go far enough. 

"I really do think it's important to get this right," Fontaine said. 

Roberts said she didn't find mold in any of the living areas — the only place where she found moisture was in the laundry room. 

"People are on edge," Fitzgerald said when describing David's behavior at the meeting. "I understand that. Certainly, the pandemic has not done us any favors but that was bizarre."

Fontaine said he's "been there." 

"You know, nobody questions the fact that a mushroom, the magical kind, can change the way you think and feel," he said, adding that mold creates contaminants that affect the mind and body. "Don't slam the Adamses. They're in a tough spot."

In an interview Sunday, Sarah said the family moved to Wilmington from Orange County in December 2018. 

"We came here to have a better life and when we first moved here, everything was actually going great," she said. "My husband had a really good job and I started working at Dunkin' Donuts."

Within a couple of months at the residence, the couple said they noticed their snakes stopped eating rats they had and the female rats were growing tumors. Sarah's left knee started to swell. She said an allergist doctor diagnosed her with toxic mold poisoning. 

Initially, the family hadn't a clue about what could be causing the issues. They later discovered mold.

"We didn't realize the mold and stuff was here until freakin' 2021," Sarah said. "You can feel just how thick the air is and the moisture in the air. There's no ventilation in this place. Half of our house is underground."

Sarah said the couple went through mediation with their former landlord and a plan was put forward to hire a mold remediation company. The project was estimated to cost between $10,000 and $15,000. 

Sarah said the family doesn't want to leave Wilmington, as their children are thriving in the local schools. She claims they had been denied housing assistance through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development because the department was told by local and state officials that issues had been remediated. 

"My knee literally looks like I got elephantiasis on my left leg when it happened," she said. "And now it's spreading to my right and it's [expletive] painful dude. Like I can't even work. It freaking sucks."

David said some wet sheetrock has been removed and an air purifier is being used.

"We try to stay outside as much as we can or keep windows and doors open," he said. "If you don't fix the moisture problem, the mold is going to keep growing back."

The family hired an inspector whose report identifies the presence of mold. A state fire marshal identified numerous rental property code violations. 


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