Plugged restroom pipe floods part of Billings City Hall

2014-06-25T11:30:00Z 2014-06-26T07:10:10Z Plugged restroom pipe floods part of Billings City HallBy MIKE FERGUSON mferguson@
billingsgazette.com
The Billings Gazette

The cleanup continued at City Hall Wednesday morning after water flowed downstairs from a plugged third-floor restroom pipe Monday night.

On Wednesday officials were still determining the extent of the damage, said Saree Couture, the city’s facilities manager. Most of the apparent damage is to carpeting in third-floor police detectives’ offices. There could also be damage to other flooring and some ceiling panels as well, she said.

A plug in a pipe behind a wall in a women’s restroom used by detectives, officers and other police employees caused water to flow down the stairs all the way into the basement, Couture said.

The plugged pipe probably occurred between 10 p.m. Monday and 3 a.m. Tuesday, she said, but wasn’t discovered until Tuesday morning when city employees reported to work.

On Tuesday morning, 28 air dryers and 12-15 dehumidifiers were in place to get rid of what water remained. “I could smell it (Tuesday) in a few places,” Couture said, but things were returning back to normal by Wednesday.

Six detectives had to be moved, and the elevator that serves the building was taken out of service for some time Tuesday. The elevator was back in operation after two visits from a contractor, Couture said.

Since some of the detectives work evening and night shifts, they were able to double up finding temporary office space, Couture said.

Some water leaked onto the top of the elevator car, but the age of the car “worked to our advantage,” Couture said, since older cars don’t have the kind of operational gadgetry on top of the car the way that modern-day elevators do.

Municipal Court proceeded Tuesday despite a docket that included about 180 names. Municipal Court participants were led into court through a different entrance. The lobby was cleared of water before Municipal Court convened Tuesday morning.

About 30 boxes — each with about 2,000 old traffic tickets — got wet, but court administered estimated that only about 20 percent of the tickets got wet. The tickets are being dried in a tented area in the City Hall basement, Couture said, adding the ink on the tickets she saw was not smeared.

The normal entrance for Municipal Court is expected to reopen Thursday morning, Couture said. Until then, the public is asked to use the newer building entrance nearest the parking garage at the intersection of N. 27th Street and Second Avenue North.

In addition to dryers and dehumidifiers, restoration crews are using infrared technology to determine if all the water has been removed, even from places that aren’t readily visible, Couture said.

“Things are getting back to normal,” she said. “It’s amazing what a little pipe can do. I’ve had these problems when it’s dead cold outside, so we appreciate our summertime temperatures.”

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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