LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) — Back in August of 1998, employees at the Grant Sawyer building complained of breathing problems, itchy eyes, coughing and feelings of fatigue. The $30 million dollar building was only a few years old when investigators said water that was seeping into the building was causing mold and fungus.
No one knew if it was causing the illness, but some agreed there was a good chance this was the cause. During that time the state was trying to resolve how water was entering the building. Investigators said it could have been a result of materials that were used to construct the building. One employee at that time questioned whether her health was worth continuing to work there.
Fast-forward 20 years later, some current workers say they feel the similar illnesses.
Louis Haynie, who retired as a gaming enforcement after eight years inside the building, said he has witnessed firsthand on-going air conditioning, heat, and plumbing problems. Haynie feels that is what is making people ill.
"You'll be feeling fine. You go to work, you sit down, and you start working and within a couple of hours you've got a really bad headache or really bad stomach ache," Haynie told us.
Haynie said the plumbing issues on the building’s upper floors forces build-up to flow to the lower floors. At times, it has caused leaks and those leaks spill out and soil the carpet at times.
“The odors are just terrible. You can’t even go down certain hallways on certain days," said Haynie.
Haynie also took photos of the inside temperatures this past summer. One photo shows the room temperature at 85 degrees at 9:00 p.m. He said during meetings fans would be put in conference rooms so employees could stand the heat. But when the air conditioning was not working, the HVAC units would begin to blow hot air back into the building. He said the opposite happens during winter, cold air will blow in the building, in place of heat.
While he was on the board of the Police Officers Association, Haynie said employees would come to him with complaints about building issues. He said people would confide in him because they did not know who else to speak to about their frustration.
Haynie and other employees would approach their bosses, and Haynie said they seemed receptive at the time, but whoever it was reported it to, the complaints never seemed to go anywhere.
Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers Rick McCann represents about 40 people in the local union chapter who work there.
McCann says he's been hearing complaints about the building for the past year. After receiving complaints he contacted Building & Grounds, but he never received a response about heat. Now, that temperatures are cooling down, he said he has received more complaints. He wrote a second email, and never received a response.
State spokesperson, Mary Woods, said many of these concerns have been addressed in the following email:
"bad smells have been traced to clogged drains, loose piping fitting under the restroom sink, and a cracked sewer vent pipe - which was repaired this Spring (2017)."
She also said the 2017 Nevada legislature has approved funding for a new air condition and heating system or HVAC.
"when the project is complete Spring 2018, will provide Grant Sawyer state-of-the-art heating and cooling systems."
Woods also brought to News 3’s attention that the Governor’s Office is at Grant Sawyer, along with many other state agencies to include Building and Grounds employees. Woods said if there are problems with the conditions of the building, the B & G staff are alerted right away.
However, McCann believes many of the issues are not addressed because there is not enough staff to deal with the issues in a timely manner. Haynie said he worries about his friends who will work inside the building this winter. He said while he has seen progress in some areas, over the next three to four months he worries his friends will freeze without much heat, especially those who work the graveyard shift.
"That leaves the next six months, 3 months, 4 months of winter where my friends are going to be freezing every day," he said.