ST. ALBANS CITY — The “Tabor building,” as it is known locally, will not be reopened as the St. Albans location for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services due to flood damage, and officials are actively searching for a replacement facility in Franklin County, according to a notice shared with the Messenger.
“Based on all of the information at this time, we estimate that the VSC workforce would not safely be able to reoccupy the Tabor building for approximately 10 months,” wrote Connie Nolan, acting associate director of service center operations for USCIS, in a Feb. 17 notice to staff. “Therefore, the decision has been made to forego reoccupying the Tabor building.”
According to the statement, the Tabor facility lease expires on June 30 of this year, and USCIS is currently in the process of notifying the General Services Administration of its intention not to renew the lease for the building for the sake of the “health and safety of the VSC workforce.”
“The identified repairs were already at least five weeks behind schedule, and the discovery of additional electrical issues and infrastructure voids added to this delay,” Nolan wrote of damage that followed the flood in December. “No repairs have started and the building owner has not provided a new project timeline incorporating the new issues identified.”
The news differed from previous information from Paul R. Hughes, regional public affairs officer of the New England Region Office of Strategic Communication (OSC), who told the Messenger previously in an email that “The building is in the process of being remediated from this event and repairs are underway.”
Required repairs include at least the removal and replacement of the damaged carpet and drywall, filling gaps in the foundation, replacing electrical wiring and receptacles in the slab, furniture repair, air quality tests and the abatement of issues identified due to “unsafe air quality conditions,” Nolan’s notice said.
“GSA recommended that we not occupy the Tabor facility during construction, out of concern for mold spores travelling throughout the facility,” Nolan wrote.
The notice was sent after staff were relocated from the Tabor building on Lower Welden Street in December due to a flood, but it was assumed that after repairs were completed that staff were eventually going to be moved back into the building.
Earlier this year, St. Albans City Public Works Director Martin Manahan said he thought the repairs from the flood had been completed.
According to a statement from the UE Local 208 union sent on Feb. 7, USCIS and its contractor, Sciolex, had designated the Essex location of USCIS to be the new location for over 200 employees displaced as a result of the flood “for the foreseeable future.”
“The employees who had been unable to return to their jobs were told they were required to return to Essex by February 4th, 2021 or face potential termination,” the statement reads. “To this day, management has refused to refer to these events as a layoff and are refusing to abide by the language related to layoff and recalls located in the contract that was mutually agreed upon between USCIS’s contractor, Sciolex, and the union.”
A Jan. 29 notice to staff from Sciolex CEO Kevin W. Miller lists out the accommodations the company made for employees, including “daily determination and redetermination of work schedules, work locations ... worked together to introduce leniency in call-out procedures, liberal use of scheduled time off, and have eased coaching and individual performance improvement plans and expectations.”
“We also implemented a temporary mileage reimbursement to ease the transition for many employees … with the location of a now new regularly assigned workplace,” Miller wrote.
But not anymore.
“Beginning 1 February 2021, at the onset or (sic) our next SCOSSA performance period, the bridge measures and methods allowed to ease transition during this adjustment period following the flood end and normal business order and rhythms are restored,” the notice reads. “Request for absences shall be pre-approved, call-out procedures and evaluation of excused vs. unexcused absences shall be followed, coaching and performance improvement plans and discipline will be reinstituted, and the temporary mileage reimbursement policy is rescinded.”
The notice continues to say they will be bringing on new temporary employees to the company as a part of their new transition.
UE Local 208 is part of the United Electrical, Machine and Radio Workers of America.