Flood Damage to Fresno County Building About $1.5 Million

The bill for last week’s flood in the Fresno County Hall of Records is estimated to be about $1.5 million, county officials say.

The flood, caused by a sprinkler that was struck by a contractor during a renovation at the county assessor-recorder office on the third floor, closed the 86,000-square-foot building for three days. About a quarter of the building’s offices were affected.

Providing money for repairs will go to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors for approval on Tuesday. Because “unusual and extraordinary circumstances exist,” county staff suggests the supervisors suspend competitive bidding to get repairs finished as soon as possible.

“Speed is of the essence,” said Robert Bash, Fresno County’s director of internal services.

But even though the building has reopened, many employees are squeezed into office space as early stages of work start to repair the damage. On Thursday, boxed files were still being moved between rooms on the second and third floors. The County Administrative Office has been temporarily moved to another building.

Paul Dictos, the county assessor-recorder, said tiles were being removed on the third floor on July 27 when the sprinkler was struck. Workers were unable to shut it off, sending water cascading through the ceiling and elevator shaft to lower floors and the basement. Small holes drilled into the third floor sent water into offices below. Dictos said desks, computers, the telephone system, copiers, scanners and some files were damaged. The files can be dried and recovered, he said.

“We lost days of full production,” Dictos said.

Vicki Crow, the county auditor-tax collector, said about 25% of her staff was initially displaced by the flooding.

The situation created some tenuous moments for her staff, too. They were processing payroll and county contracts when the flooding occurred.

Payroll staff was moved to a county office near Fresno Yosemite International Airport and property tax accounting was moved to the Del Webb building across the street from the Hall of Records at Tulare and M streets.

About 5% of her staff is working elsewhere now, as office staff has squeezed into the first floor Hall of Records offices, she said.

The fire pump in the basement did its job. It sensed a drop in pressure and all of a sudden we had 500 gallons a minute of pressure on the floor.

The building was constructed in the 1930s and added onto in the 1950s. The building had to be closed for three days to check for water damage to mechanical equipment in the basement, Bash said.

“We had to make sure it was safe to turn the power back on,” he said.

When the water pump in the basement sensed the loss of pressure after the sprinkler head was knocked off, it triggered the sprinkler system, he said. “All of a sudden we had 500 gallons a minute of pressure on the floor.”

It’s not known how much water flowed from the sprinkler system, but Bash estimates about 7,000 gallons. It stayed on for an estimated 15 minutes.

Bash expects repairs to take about two months. Because the building was constructed of marble, concrete and plaster, he said, mold is not a concern for much of the damaged area. There is no structural damage.

But carpeting, linoleum and tile needs to be replaced and some drywall repaired from earlier renovations, Bash said.

The county will front the cost to pay contractors and then seek payment through its insurance coverage.

The county has an “out-of-pocket deductible” of $25,000 to limit the county’s costs for repairs, Bash said.

The repair costs are “a placeholder” for now because the figure may change, he said.

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