Town hall damage worst on third floor

By BRIAN LESTER
STAFF WRITER

A major water leak at the Bluffton town hall did the most damage to the building’s third floor, village officials said Thursday.

All three floors of the downtown building were damaged by the water, but the third floor, where the leak began, got the worst of it. The third floor is where Village Council meets twice a month, and the meeting room is also rented out often.

A sprinkler head on the third floor broke just after 10 p.m. Tuesday, and the break sent a signal to the building’s fire pumping system that water was needed. It is estimated that nearly 1,500 gallons of water poured into the building. The leak lasted for about 10 minutes before being shut off by the Fire Department.

Village Administrator James Mehaffie on Thursday said no timetable has been set for reopening the building, but work is underway to get things in order again.

“We are currently working through the process of mitigating the water damage caused by the broken sprinkler head,” Mehaffie said. “As of now, I do not have a timeline on the cleanup process or the repairs. The claims adjuster for our insurance carrier was on site (Thursday), and that process is moving forward. We are working to be open to the public as soon as we are able to do so.”

Several questions still need to be answered as the process continues, including who is responsible for paying for cleanup and repairs.

“The payment responsibility for the repairs and equipment (replacement) will be answered as the process moves forward,” Mehaffie said.

Mehaffie was asked if the village would file suit against anyone for the cost of the cleanup and repair effort, but he said it’s still too early to answer that question.

No damage estimates have been made available yet.

“Right now, the claim is being handled by our insurance,” he said.

The leak was discovered at 10:04 p.m. Tuesday, according to Police Chief Rick Skilliter, and the Fire Department arrived quickly and shut off the water.

Because of the damage, telephone and Internet service are not working in the building. Bluffton residents can call 911 to reach the police dispatcher.

An outside company, ServiceMaster, is doing cleanup work this week, and Mehaffie said several others have been involved in the cleanup effort.

“In addition to the incredible effort from our dedicated village employees, the village has also received fantastic assistance from ServiceMaster, Perry Pro-Tech, Digital Cops, Allied Waste, Webb Insurance and Armor Fire,” he said.

The town hall, built in 1887, was refurbished in 2008 at a cost of $2.75 million. In 2005, voters approved a ballot initiative to raise the village income tax in order to pay for the restoration.

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