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Smell won’t stop official vote count

Monday’s certified ballot count by the Lawrence County Board of Elections will proceed, despite a continuing sewer gas odor in that section of the courthouse.

Sunday, November 14, 1999

Monday’s certified ballot count by the Lawrence County Board of Elections will proceed, despite a continuing sewer gas odor in that section of the courthouse.

"Well, we’ll just have to open up the windows and do the best we can," board director Mary Wipert said Friday.

Employees noticed the offensive smell several weeks ago, and began suffering from headaches, nausea and sore throats.

The office closed briefly, but county maintenance workers investigated then capped an open sewer line inside one of the office walls. The smell returned days later, prompting another closure, and more probing for the source.

The office remained closed most of this week, except when one or two employees worked from tables in the first-floor hallway.

Mrs. Wipert said Monday’s official count must proceed because the election equipment cannot be moved and the state requires the board to certify the election that day.

"Everything will go exactly as it does Election Night, except not as slow," she said.

Computer systems will recount all votes and add the provisional, or walk-in, ballots cast Nov. 2. No races are expected to change.

To cut down on the odor’s ill effects, courthouse maintenance staff have sealed off some office doors where the odor is strongest, and election workers will not spend much time in confined spaces, Mrs. Wipert said.

Meanwhile, the county has been treating the odor problem as an emergency, commission president Bruce Trent said.

Maintenance workers have installed new toilet seals and vented the toilet area with flexible pipe, human resources director Dick Lang said.

The county also brought in a professional plumber Tuesday, who removed a sewer exhaust pipe clog after lowering a video camera through a roof vent, Trent said.

A hole in a sewer pipe was also discovered, but the odor persists, Mrs. Wipert said Friday.

"It could be something else, though," she said.

The smell is inconvenient for everyone, and the next step might be digging up the floor or breaking into the walls to find the source of the problem, but a solution should surface soon, Mrs. Wipert added.