Stubborn smell causing headaches at old courthouse

San Miguel County Courthouse

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (KRQE) – A mysterious odor at an old county courthouse is causing headaches. The 80-year-old building, now occupied by the San Miguel County Assessor and others, has officials scrambling for answers in what they are calling a serious health problem.

“Probably five years ago, we just remodeled the building,” Les Montoya said, the San Miguel County Manager said.

The old San Miguel County courthouse, with its historic charm, stands tall in Las Vegas.

But inside, it holds a smelly secret.

“About a year and a half ago, during a real heavy rainy season, we had complaints about a musty, mildew smell in the Assessor’s office,” Montoya said Wednesday.

The office sits just above the basement. It was there where they found a lot of moisture which was later cleaned up.

Officials thought the problem was taken care of.

“They were complaining about symptoms they were receiving or experiencing,” Montoya said of the problem.

It was cause for real concern.

Employees at the Assessor’s office said the symptoms were similar to allergies, but more intense. They said they suffered from sore noses and throats, pain around their ears and even bloody noses.

Montoya made the call to move everyone out six months ago. He said a consultant was brought in at that time.

“He made a determination that the airflow in the building was not what it should be,” Montoya said.

Changes were made and workers were brought back last month.

That smell, or as Montoya calls it, a sensation, was back after a few weeks. Now, they are again looking for answer.

“If we can’t find a source then, it seems like I might have to move them out of the office again.”

Montoya said that means throwing more money at a problem they still haven’t exactly pinpointed.

A plan is already in place to move employees into a nearby building next week if things keep up. Montoya said the move isn’t only for their safety but for citizens coming in for services.

It’s unclear just how much money has already been spent on the troubling odor. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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