Change (and Mold) are in the Air at Clarke Government Center

Berryville and Clarke County officials are working together on improvements to the Berryville-Clarke County Government Center Building. Outside changes could include repositioning the library return drop box while inside the building atriums may soon see artwork reflecting the areas rich local history.

On Wednesday members of the Joint Building Committee convened to discuss topics related to improving the operation of the new Government Center facility. The committee includes Clarke County Supervisor David Weiss (Buckmarsh), Berryville Councilman  Allen Kitselman (Ward Two), Clarke County Administrator David Ash, Berryville Town Manager Keith Dalton and Clarke County Building Inspector Gary Pope.

Library Drop Box

One of the Government Center Building’s customer service features designed to appeal to Clarke County Public Library users is an outdoor drive-up “drop box” for returning library materials. Unfortunately, the drive-up box is rarely used.

“I’ve yet to see anyone drive through” County Administrator David Ash told the committee.

Proposed relocation site for library return box - Photo Edward Leonard

Based on Ash’s recommendation the committee plans to move the drop-box about 50’ west to the corner of the building and provide a reserved parking space for patrons returning books. In the future, patrons will first park their cars and then walk to the drop box.

Library Overdue on Door installation Authorization

The library discussion included not only outside changes but inside changes as well. According to committee members, the new automatic access doors installed in the library earlier this year were not approved in advanced by either the Joint Building Committee or Building Inspector Gary Pope.

“Gary Pope needs to see the plans that were used and they need to be right“ Supervisor Weiss said. “We’re glad that the library is here but they need to follow the rules.”

Apparently library officials did notify building officials before installing the new doors but may have been uncertain about the formal authorization process for making improvements to the facility. Building Inspector Pope is following up to insure that the door installation conforms to building codes.

More Door News

“Anytime the Government Center Building is occupied people have to be able to easily get in and out” Building Inspector Gary Pope told the committee. “Installation of panic bars will help us meet building and fire code regulations.”

Pope and the committee agreed to install a limited number of the automatic release mechanisms on certain building exit doors. The bars allow doors to remain locked to the outside; however, occupants inside the building simply press the bar to unlock the door when leaving. The bar automatically relocks the door when it closes.

Because the building serves so many purposes and meetings, access doors have occasionally been locked at the end of the day even though occupants were still inside the buidling. The new exit bars will allow quick exit from the building even when the main doors are locked.

Atrium Art

No matter how well decorated, it’s easy for the appearance of public spaces to become dull.

To solve this problem the building committee hopes to reproduce and mount approximately 40 historic photographs of Clarke County and Berryville throughout the Government Center Building. The committee is also considering hiring interior designer Phyllis Nee to assist with the decorating approach.

Nee was instrumental in the design phase of the Government Center Building during construction.

Fiscal Agents and “Probable Litigation’

Because the town and county share the new government building there are many fees and charges that are allocated between the two respective building budgets.

How many shared charges are there?

Apparently enough that the committee is considering appointing a “fiscal agent” to administer the costs and maintenance associated with the building’s use.

One recent building maintenance line item addition that a fiscal agent may need to purchase in bulk quantities is aerosol disinfectant spray. Building users have complained of musty smells, mold and high humidity throughout the building. Attempts by the building contractor to correct the problems have apparently not been successful.

In preparation for what’s been termed “probable litigation” county officials have placed humidity / temperature recording devices throughout the building for the past three weeks. Temperature / humidity readings outside of acceptable ranges could, in theory, be used to support legal claims that the facility’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system does not operate properly.

How serious is Clarke County’s government about a court fight over building HVAC problems?

“There’s never been a permanent occupancy permit issued for this building” Building Inspector Gary Pope told the committee just prior to entering a closed session to discuss the litigation. “Occupancy is under temporary permit now and we don’t want to do anything to jeopardize and future litigation”        


  1. I use the library drop box all the time and have frequently seen others using it. Maybe Mr. Ash is looking out the wrong window!

    • I too use the drop box because my work schedule doesn’t always allow me to get to the library when it’s open.

  2. The Shocker says:

    I thought the attraction of a drop box was the convenience of using it. It seems that having a dedicated parking spot eliminates much of this. Mothers with small children will now have to undo car seats and carry their child through a parking lot. Senior citizens will have to leave their cars as well. I’m assuming there will also be some sort of handicap access available through the sidewalk and mulch since any wheelchair/crutch/walker based person will have to leave their vehicle as well. The library van already parks in the handicap space every time there is a delivery, why would anyone believe this “dedicated” space will truly remain free?

    This is a discouraging decision. Perhaps David Ash should spend less time staring out of his window at the driveway and more time attempting to create policies that will help further our County along in a positive direction.

    • Perhaps the committee should ask the library for some actual numbers, just how many books and cds/dvds are in the drop boxes on a daily basis? I wouldn’t have a problem with them moving it, because actually since the dvd box is located right as the drive begins to curve, it’s difficult to get close enough to the box, but walking up to it really defeats much of the purpose, as The Shocker said.

    • Really, get the kids out of the car just to drop your books in the box? 2 minutes tops-sheesh life is rough. If we can go into the building to GET the books surely we can walk a few steps to return them. Perhaps a Kindle is the answer.

      • Yes, Sunday afternoons would be a lovely time to take the kids into the library . . . sorry, it’s closed. Saturday afternoons too . . . sorry, it’s closed. And Thurs and Fri afternoons, again, closed. My family goes into the library about once a week, we check out MANY books and DVD’s. Some are “keepers” and some we read/view once and can go back right away. Rather than having have them sit around and get potentially lost or damaged, I return them while out running errands. It’s also easier on the library staff not to have to check a mountain of items back in all at once. Yes, being lazy is indeed a reason to use the drop box, but there are many other reasons as well.

  3. If occupancy of the building is under “temporary”, then therefore the contractor would be liable to support the requested changes in air temps. However, when the the statement of work was written and if poorly presented then shame on the Town/County.

  4. Mr. Ash Seriously???

    Are you out of your mind, of course you don’t “SEE” anyone use it. My educated guess would be that a drop box is for before or after hours or someone in a hurry, it is supposed to be used for when it is closed and parents/clients can’t go into return a book. Why not use a metric sheet and track this prior to making a big decision to change it???? hmmmmm sounds like you need to think this out, instead of putting patrons out of the way. Glad you got that window seat, however get out of your chair and go make a difference where it really matters.

  5. My family always use the drop boxes for the County, Town, and Library because I’m a commuter and return things whenever we want. It is ludicrous that because it isn’t seen they are not in use. My payments clear and book/dvd/cd returns are being checked back in … so obviously *somebody* is using the boxes. Unbelievably ignorant comment that somebody made in your article. WOW!

  6. Fly on the wall says:

    My question is this: how did our building inspector not pick up on the fact that there are doors that don’t have panic bars to “meet fire and building code regulations” last year, when it was under construction? This building has been open for a year…he missed this issue, but he’s so underutilized that he can swing over and periodically check up on the new high school? Really?

  7. Charles S. Chase says:

    To put it bluntly, Mr. Ash has his facts dead wrong. Maybe he should visit the library some morning (Friday would be good) to see how much is contained in the drop boxes. Half the time, two cart loads are in there. And, yes, as a library volunteer, I know very well what David Ash does not.