The downtown Heber M. Wells Building is filled to the brim with state employees and could be a death trap in the event of fire or other natural disaster, a spokesman for the Utah Public Employees Association said Friday.
Association representatives toured the building, 160 E. Third South, with state officials to point out potential hazards and re-emphasize the need to relieve congestion."It's not a new problem," said Steven Hansen, association spokesman. "We've voiced concerns about it before. People have been complaining since close to two years ago, and we don't see anything being done. So this is sort of an exercise to get things moving again."
Hansen said the building now houses 900 employees, even though it was originally designed for only 700. He said filing cabinets have been placed in walkways and hallways, which makes the halls unnavigable if a filing drawer is left open. He said some hallways deadend into walls or windows, and that some passageways are as small as 18 inches because of the density of worker cubicles.
"Besides being uncomfortable and hampering the work effort, there are potential hazards if there were a fire or some other natural disaster," Hansen said.
State officials are planning to move the State Tax Commission from the Wells Building to the Capitol as soon as workers remove cancer-causing asbestos from the State Office Building. But Hansen said that move is not scheduled until the end of the year and the association believes that's not soon enough.
Hansen said association attorney Zane Gill, who participated in the tour, is looking into the problem and will be exploring legal options.