By J.P. Crumrine, News Editor and
Marshall Smith, Staff Reporter
The Town Hall building has been closed for a duration yet to be determined, according to Kyla Brown, parks and recreation bureau chief for the Riverside County Regional Parks and Open-space District, although she hopes it will be only a week.
A notice on the door this weekend stated, “Upon recent inspection of Town Hall, materials were found to contain asbestos in some areas …”
Another notice stressed, “Preliminary tests have determined this facility has material containing asbestos. Do not disturb.” But it stressed that the park district is taking comprehensive precautionary steps, “… therefore, this facility is not being used for programs until further testing is conducted.”
More inspections and chemical tests will be made this week, according to Brown.
As of Monday, Town Hall programs, including the afterschool program, were being held at the Idyllwild Nature Center. Parks had already arranged with Hemet Unified School District to transport the children in the program to the Nature Center.
“Regular park district staff will continue to run the program at the Nature Center and provide the same services,” read the notice on the door.
Although Idyllwild School will be closed next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, its own afterschool program will be at the school on Monday and Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Principal Matt Kraemer said, if parents plan to have children participate, “they need to be there from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.”
If the problem at Town Hall is greater than the Parks and Open Space District currently believes, Brown said they hope to relocate the program to a space closer to town, perhaps Idyllwild School.
According to Brown, a routine inspection in the attic area in preparation for some maintenance work discovered some disturbed asbestos. As a precaution before determining the condition of the asbestos, the building was closed for county recreation use.
Verne Lauritzen, 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington’s chief of staff, cautioned that asbestos, when it begins to deteriorate, may become airborne particles that can be inhaled and cause health hazards. “That’s why the decision was made to move recreation programs until further inspections and necessary repairs can be made,” said Lauritzen.
At this point it is uncertain who will make repairs if they prove necessary. “I’m not aware that the county has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Johnsons [the owners of Town Hall] regarding responsibility for repair.
“I’ve asked the Parks District to have a long term contingency plan in place for relocating recreation if Town Hall remains unsuitable,” Lauritzen said.