The discovery of potentially harmful lead paint has forced the closure of the YMCA teen center at the Cottager’s Corner building on Pequot avenue. The center was closed in May and remains closed now. YMCA officials are hoping the center will reopen sometime by the end of the summer.
YMCA executive director John Clese said yesterday he closed the center in May after an employee noticed that a contractor hired to paint the exterior of the building mistakenly used a dry sander instead of a wet sander, which released lead paint dust into the air which then blew inside the building.
Mr. Clese said the building was vacant at the time, and he does not believe the paint dust poses a threat to public safety. But the center was closed as a precaution, which forced the cancellation of all summer programs held there. Several program staff members had to find office space elsewhere.
“A lot of us have sort of floated around downtown Oak Bluffs for the past few months, but we’ve managed to make it work,” Mr. Clese said.
But he said the bigger loss was the cancellation of summer programs, including one called Studio 57 which allowed young people to operate a movie studio while learning about film. “The kids were excited about that one, we all were. It’s a real letdown,” he said.
Mr. Clese said he was not concerned about previous lead contamination for children and employees. The building has been painted several times over the years, he said, which almost certainly sealed over any lead paint.
A professional cleaning crew has been hired to test and clean the building, and the work is scheduled to take place on July 18. Mr. Clese said the cleanup will cost $2,000, which will be paid for by a private donor.
The building is owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Cottagers, a social group of African-American woman who regularly contribute to several Island charities. The YMCA has leased the space for the teen center from the Cottagers since 2004.
Health agent Shirley Fauteux sent a letter to the Cottagers in May recommending that the exterior and interior of the building by cleaned by a licensed lead-paint remover. The letter states that five out of six samples taken from the building failed the state standards established for lead contamination.
Ms. Fauteux said yesterday the board of health only has the authority to compel the owner of a residential property to remove lead paint. Under the state lead paint law, the board does not have that power over the owner of a commercial property.
“I didn’t order the cleanup, and I didn’t shut the place down . . . I only made a recommendation,” she said.
In her letter to the Cottagers, Ms. Fauteux suggested that any children under the age of 6 may want to undergo lead screening as a precaution.