Broken pipe damages new addition to courthouse

Published 3:31 am Monday, January 26, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- After being open to the public for the less than a week, the new addition to the South County building in Niles was forced to shut down on Friday due to a flood caused by a broken sprinkler pipe.
The broken pipe flooded the buiding with water.
The building was open for business for the first time on Tuesday morning last week and on early Friday morning the broken pipe caused it to close for the day.
Bret Witkowski, chairman of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, said "the sprinkler system was exposed to the extreme cold weather and it burst."
He said someone was at the scene within 30 minutes of the incident, but not before the broken pipe caused 9,000 gallons of water to spill out into the building.
Mike Kuntz, head of maintenance at the South County building, received a phone call at 4 a.m. on Friday and rushed to the scene.
He immediately shut off the water and began a massive clean up effort.
Kuntz said the 1.5-inch diameter pipe that burst was near the entrance of the new addition and was not surrounded by adequate insulation.
The water poured out of the broken pipe and caused more than an inch of standing water in various parts of the building.
Maintenance crews opened the floor drains and used push brooms, shop vacuums and carpet machines to help clean up the mess.
He said they ran large fans all weekend to speed up the drying process.
There was extensive damage to the ceiling were the pipe was located and also minor damage to the bottom of the walls and carpet.
The ceiling was redone over the weekend and it has not been determined if the carpet will need to be replaced.
On Monday morning the building was open for business as usual and there was little evidence that a flood had even occurred.
Witkowski was not sure how much the cleanup efforts will cost and said the county would not be paying for any damages.
The county has not worked out the monetary issue, but he thinks it may be something the contractors will have to pay for.