By Pat Warren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Courthouse employees attempt to breathe new life into the ongoing debate about conditions in the city circuit court buildings.

Pat Warren reports a protest Thursday focused on health concerns.

Court employees put on breathing masks, others carry brooms and dustpans, as Clerk of Courts Frank Conaway leads the call for better working conditions in Baltimore Circuit Court buildings.

“We have rats and mice. You don’t believe it?” said Conaway.

The rat turns out to be rubber, but the effect is real enough. The union representing employees says they are working in rodent infested and poorly ventilated court offices. And while the most recent studies have shown no link between air quality and illness in the building, employees feel otherwise.

“Most of them are sick. Everybody that’s sick raise your hand. Most of them are under the doctor’s care,” said Pat Kelly, AFSCME.

“All of us need a healthy place to work. And I’m sorry, I’m about to cry because I’m just feeling this has just gone too far,” said Happy Dabbs, court employee.

“My doctor at Mercy said get out of the building, retire,” said Paul Ricciuti, court employee.

According to a 2011 study, the estimated cost to renovate the existing buildings and build a new criminal courthouse is $570 million to $600 million. And while Mayor Rawlings-Blake says she is aware of the needs, neither the city nor the state has been able to come up with the money.

At the very least, court employees hope their continued demonstrations will provide public incentive to get things done.

Circuit court employees have been voicing their concerns for the past 12 years.

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