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Burst pipe damages City Hall, soaks basement archive

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 04. 2018 10:57AM

City Archivist Mike Intranuovo removes bound copies of city meeting minutes damaged over the weekend by a water leak. (MARK HAYWARD/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER – The water line to a drinking water fountain in City Hall failed sometime over the weekend, sending water cascading through the entrance foyer and two offices for hours, city officials said.

The water fountain was on the second floor of City Hall, just outside the office of the city finance officer. It cascaded through the first-floor office of economic development and collected in the basement, where most city archives are stored. Probably several inches of water accumulated before the break was discovered, said City Clerk Matt Normand.

“This breaks my heart,” he said, noting the city had completed cosmetic upgrades on the affected space last summer.

The city has closed the front entrance to City Hall. A new carpet was ripped out and workers had cut the bottom two feet off the sheetrock in areas. The hum of evaporation fans filled the air Tuesday.

A worker in the economic development office was displaced, but the most damage was to the basement archives.

Normand said paper ballots from the 2106 election were damaged, but they were soon slated for destruction.

Other records from that election, which must be maintained indefinitely, suffered water damage, as did bound copies of meeting minutes of city boards.

They will have to be freeze-dried, a method used to preserve records damaged by water, the city clerk said. Water also destroy a computer and digital scanner.

“We got really lucky. That (equipment) can be replaced. Records can’t be replaced,” he said.

Archived records will have to be moved so workers can assess the damage and repair walls and ceilings, Normand said.

Ceilings in some spots of the archive space were discolored. Sheetrock on the lower portion of most of the walls had been removed. Exposed brick was damp to the touch.

Normand believes the pipe burst Saturday, though it could have been anytime between the close of business Friday and 7 a.m. Sunday, when contractors entered City Hall to do some work and discovered the damage.

Deputy City Solicitor Peter Chiesa said the city’s risk adjuster has been notified. While the city is insured for liability purposes, it carries property and casualty insurance for incidents such as a burst pipe, he said.

The water fountain was installed when City Hall was restored about 20 years ago. Normand said. The damaged pipe is now with the insurance adjster and city facilities workers will be checking all water fountain pipes to prevent another occurrence.

“The insurance company’s looking into (how) that (happened), but pipes fail,” Normand said.

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