Originally created 11/16/02

Faucet floods courts' offices



A faucet accidentally left on overnight flooded three floors of the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building on Friday, soaking carpets in several offices and closing the city's Probate Court - likely until sometime next week.

The leaky sink, located in a fifth-floor microfilm room of Richmond County Superior Court, apparently was turned on sometime Thursday evening while water to the Municipal Building had been cut off for repairs.

When pressure was restored, the water began flowing from the faucet and out of a faulty drain pipe onto the floor. By Friday morning, the sink had soaked Superior Court offices and fourth-floor Probate Court offices and had caused minor damage to the ceilings of third-floor Magistrate Court offices, maintenance workers said.

Dehumidifiers and industrial fans will work to dry out the building through the weekend, while replacement costs continue to be assessed. No damage estimates have been made yet, said Rick Acree, the city's facilities manager.

Probate Court offices, which are located directly below Superior Court, received the most damage, with water soaking computers and shorting out electrical lines. Because clerks were unable to access their electronic records, the office - which issues marriage licenses, gun permits and fireworks permits - was closed.

Handwritten signs taped to the Municipal Building's front doors alerted visitors to the problem.

The court will likely operate with a skeleton crew through at least Tuesday while the electronics dry out, Probate Court Administrative Manager Angela Rice said.

Although some papers on desks got wet, nothing appears to have been destroyed, she said. Firefighters were called in to drape vulnerable file cabinets with protective tarps.

"I sure am glad I went to the gym first," said Ms. Rice, who was the first person to find the water damage shortly after 8 a.m. "Because I would not have wanted to wake up to that."

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.

Richmond County Probate Court officials are asking people to call ahead before visiting their office Monday to see whether water-damaged computers have been repaired. The phone number is 821-2434.