MISSOULA – There’s progress at the YMCA Learning Center in Missoula as it works to cleans a facility that was contaminated by meth that was being smoked by an employee in a laundry room.
The center off Palmer Street has been closed since April after another employee said she suspected a co-worker was smoking meth in a laundry room cabinet.
The center immediately closed and began testing for drug contamination. There was residue in the cabinet where the worker is accused of using meth, but also in the staff bathroom where police believe the employee also used drugs. The vents sucked up contaminated smoke into the spaces above the hanging ceiling.
Although the contamination levels were low, it all had to be tossed out.
“We are close to being done with clean up,” said YMCA Missoula Interim Director Heather Foster. “The initial stage was demolition so we had to come in and remove almost all materials from this facility, anything that was porous, which included dumpsters full of books and curriculum and clasrrom art and then the crew came in to remove the other things like ceiling tiles and carpet.”
Once this phase is finished, there’s another round of of testing to make sure the facility is clean.
Foster says the clean-up could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars before it’s all done and there’s no guarantee insurance will pay for it. But she also says what happened here should be a part of a bigger community conversation about drugs.
“You go through the full range of emotions, but I think as we’ve moved through this we’ve learned some loopholes in some of the systems and I think if we can’t use this as an opportunity to talk as a community about drug use and abuse around licensing regulations and drug testing for child care workers, all those things are important conversations.”
If all goes as scheduled, the center hopes to begin its remodel by mid-June and re-open by mid-July.
Some 74 kids aged six weeks through pre-school are enrolled at the Y’s Learning Center.
Reporting by Jill Valley for MTN News