Douglas hears from Bennington building employees

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas got an earful from anxious employees at the Bennington State Offices Tuesday. Workers from human services, corrections and the court have been waiting since October for the state to move them out of a building they say is making them sick.

Worker tests have confirmed unusually high rates of respiratory problems and sarcoidosis, a rare and sometimes debilitating illness. The state plans to move the workers into temporary office trailers on adjacent land. But it’s taking much longer than predicted.

In a surprise visit, Douglas said he was frustrated by the slow pace.

(Douglas) “And I want to be sure we do whatever we can to move it forward as quickly as possible. Job one as far as I’m concerned is to exit this building. So that’s what we’re focused on now. I think we’ll be able to do it in a reasonable time frame and in the meantime I really appreciate all your hard work and dedication.”

(Host) Chris Murphy of the Department of Children and Families, wasn’t satisfied.

(Murphy) “I believe, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is that you’re down here today as you said because so many of us are dissatisfied and quite frankly angry at the length of time it’s taken for this to happen. What in your mind, governor, is a reasonable time frame?”

(Host) Douglas declined to give a specific target date, saying a construction project like this was too unpredictable. Workers argued that if the state offices were destroyed in a fire, alternate spaces would have been found.

Workers also said they’re using up sick leave because of health problems, and that requests for worker’s compensation have been denied.

The governor said he and his staff would look into their complaints.

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