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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Water Main Break Floods Civic Center Basement

"Mayor's office files from 1998." "Closed case files." "Archived newspaper articles." Those were just a few of the labels on boxes that were on or near the floor of the Civic Center basement when a water main broke on Saturday and caused flooding.

"We've got court records, clerk records, (records from) treasurers, building commissioners," said David Rector, general manager of the Evansville-Vanderburgh County Building Authority.

More than 100,000 gallons of water spilled when the water main at King Boulevard broke about 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Some of the water traveled along conduits into the Civic Center basement.

Although the Evansville Police Department is attached to the Civic Center, its basement, which houses evidence and records, was not affected by the break.

The muddied water that came pouring into a small storage room eventually touched every room in the basement of the Civic Center, in some places reaching a depth of 6 inches.

"We've got thousands of dollars in damage. I haven't determined what it is yet," Rector said. In addition to files and records, carpeting, extra security cameras, monitors and computer towers were damaged.

The Indiana State Board of Accounts owns those computer towers, Rector said. It has on-site auditors and offices down there, and officials will assess the extent of damage to its property today.

Rector said insurance adjusters will assess total damage this week.

But the records are the most important items damaged, Rector said.

"Anything else lost can be replaced," said Rector.

The scope of the devastation to these files and books is unclear. Rector said workers will determine what's salvageable after everything dries.

The Civic Center is 40 years old and houses records — such as the city government minutes from 1897 — that are much older.

Although the two dozen city and county government departments that store records in the Civic Center basement have an off-site storage facility, the basement was their first storage area.

A majority of the boxes were on metal shelves and were unaffected. But a lack of space required some be on the floor, Rector said.

"The files exceed the space that we have," said Rector. "... We just don't have the space to store everything appropriately."

Rector said mold shouldn't be a major problem, as antimicrobial material was dispersed and about 60 fans are still running to eliminate moisture.

The water from the main break made its way into the basement via conduits, which house telephone, electrical and data cables that run into the Civic Center.

Rector said officials will consider caulking these conduits to prevent future flooding, but the task may not be easy.

"We're talking some fairly large conduits," Rector said.

"It's not a 1-inch conduit that we can caulk and fill. Some of these are 3 to 4 inches in diameter."

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