PEMBROKE — Two volunteers at the Lumbee Tribe’s Office of Veterans Affairs say that the Lumbee Tribal Council is endangering the health of veterans and staff by not dealing with a mold problem at the office on Union Chapel Road. They also say that the council has allowed the office to operate for two years without heat and air conditioning.
In a letter to The Robesonian, Veterans Services Officers Ronnie Brooks and Greg Jacobs contend that the Tribal Council has known about the mold infestation since the building was tested for mold in January 2011. A second study conducted last month “clearly shows that the building has a high level of mold,” the letter reads.
“I don’t know why, but basically the council is dragging its feet,” Brooks said Thursday. “I don’t get involved in politics. My goal is just to get all of the benefits for these veterans that they deserve.”
According to Brooks, the problem is being addressed the tribe’s administration. He said as of next week, the Office of Veterans Affairs will be located at COMtech, across from the Fayetteville Veterans Hospital’s outpatient clinic.
“This is going to be great for the veterans,” Brooks said. “The veterans can go to the clinic then come over to our office to see about their benefits. It’s perfect.”
Councilwoman Danita Locklear, the chairman of LNTP Inc., a non-profit that owns and is renting the building to several businesses, said that the mold problem is not as serious as the two Veterans Office volunteers claim. She said there is a mold issue in a small recess area in the back of the building, but is not prominent in other areas.
Locklear said that the study conducted in 2011 revealed that the extent of mold in the building was “no more than typical than in a home or the outdoors.” The most recent study, she said, also shows some mold presence in a small section of the building, but there are some questions about how the study — requested by Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks — was conducted and prepared for review.
Mold has the potential to cause health problems such as allergies, irritations and infections. It can affect the health of young children, the elderly, and people with existing respiratory problems the most, according to an August report prepared by Locklear, Locklear & Jacobs PLLC.
Danita Locklear told The Robesonian that the LNTP committee, which includes members of the Tribal Council, met with veterans and representatives of five businesses located in the building on Sept. 10 to discuss the issue. She said that except for the two Veterans Office volunteers, those present at the meeting were satisfied that the mold situation was being addressed.
“It was the consensus of those at the meeting that we do a study of the whole building,” Locklear said. “That is what we are going to do.”
Pearlean Revels, speaker for the Tribal Council, was irate Thursday when she learned that individuals who are not employees of the tribe are making public statements about the government that she contends are entirely false.
“These two individuals (Brooks and Jacobs) are not employees of the tribe and do not have the right putting this kind of thing in writing,” Revels said.
Alex Baker, the tribe’s director of Public Relations, said that Chairman Paul Brooks called for the recent mold inspection at the Office of Veterans Affairs immediately after learning there might be a problem. Brooks also made the decision to move the office to COMtech.
“The chairman is very concerned about our veterans,” Baker said.
Housing Director Bosco Locklear told The Robesonian that he believes the chairman made the right decision in moving the Veterans Affairs Office to COMtech.
“We are responsible (for the health) of our employees and veterans,” Locklear said.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.