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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Officials Mull Over Court Flooding

Officials will have to drill deeper to find out why the basement of the Muskogee County Courthouse floods after heavy rain.

Commissioners have been dealing with the problem since a major renovation in the late 1990s.

The county spent nearly $50,000 in 2008 to drill well points outside the courthouse and installed pumps to drain excess water. That process was repeated a second time, officials said.

District 1 Commissioner Gene Wallace said a number of other things have been done to correct the problem. Those efforts include “caulking and re-caulking every pipe and entry point into the courthouse.”

Although those efforts have worked to some extent, Wallace said, a permanent fix has yet to be found.

“Every time we think we have made some headway, it rains again and the courthouse floods,” Wallace said, noting that the latest incident occurred about a week ago after heavy rain blanketed the area. “We’re convinced that we need someone who has more knowledge about this than we do.”

The flooding has damaged carpeted areas, tile floors and wallboard on interior walls. Wallace said commissioners want to prevent mold from growing and spreading in affected areas. Another concern is money.

“I don’t want to be throwing good money after bad,” District 3 Commissioner Dexter Payne said. “We’ve been doing that for five years.”

Muskogee County Emergency Management Director Jeff Smith, whose office is in the basement, said the degree of flooding depends on “how much it rains and how fast it falls.”

“It seems to flood only when we get several inches of rain in a short period of time,” Smith said. “It just seems to come up between the outer walls and basement floor.”

Smith said the water typically subsides quickly. Even so, Wallace said “a solution must be found” to avoid structural deterioration that might be occurring.

“We’ve tried all the obvious fixes,” Wallace said. “Now we are going to have to look for problems that might not be so obvious.”

Ideas discussed Monday include possible consultations with a hydrologist to determine the source of the water and its path into the basement.

Wallace said some suspect rainwater that drains from the parking garage adjacent to the courthouse. But without further studies, there is no way to confirm that.

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