Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

January 8, 2014

Burst pipe floods TC courtroom

TRAVERSE CITY — Pipes in residential homes aren’t the only ones vulnerable to cold weather.

A water pipe burst Tuesday morning in the Robert P. Griffin Hall on Washington Street in Traverse City and flooded a judge’s chambers, a courtroom and saturated stacks of old case files in basement storage.

Eighty-sixth District Court Administrator Carol Stocking said a frozen sprinkler head appears to be the culprit.

County maintenance worker Greg Lawbach was working on a nearby door when the building’s strobe lights and evacuation alarm went off about 7:50 a.m. He said a system check indicated an issue with the pump flow for the sprinkler system.

“All the sudden the water starts coming through the ceiling,” Lawbach said.

The water flowed from a bathroom and spread through Judge Thomas Phillips’ office, into his courtroom and then through the floor into the basement. City firefighters arrived and allowed court employees to stay within the lobby area instead of facing subzero wind chills outside.

Lawbach said it appears a water line in a poorly insulated spot froze and caused a sprinkler head to burst. He said the sprinkler system problem triggered the building’s alarms.

“We’ve never had a (sprinkler) head go off like that before,” he said. “If this would have happened on the weekend it would have been ugly.”

County workers and SERVPRO employees will spend the next few days vacuuming up water and drying out the inundated courtroom and office.

Stocking said old case files in the basement received water damage, but only those that already were slated for destruction. She said a behind-the-scenes scramble for ways to work around the flooded courtroom won’t affect upcoming court cases and appearances.

“Court will go on as scheduled,” she said. “There will be no change in court schedule.”

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