Though there is no comparison to the famous Kiowa flood that filled the Elbert County Courthouse to the second floor with mud and silt in 1935, it will still take cleanup and repair crews at least a month to fix all the damage caused by a water-line break in the building's basement the night of June 29 or early June 30.
According to County Manager Ed Ehmann, employees arrived to work the morning of June 30 to find water spraying from a failed fitting on the main water line supplying the building, with three inches of water in the basement hallway as well as adjoining offices. A lower-lying utility room at the back of the building had water as deep as two feet.
All the electricity in the building was shut off for most of the morning, and some employees who were not part of the response team were sent home. By afternoon, the power was back on and a restoration company was on site to pump out the water and set up floor- and carpet-drying blowers.
Ehmann praised the response team and said the flood plan was well executed. He also said that the records kept in the basement were salvageable, and he particularly emphasized that the county's historical records, stored in the building's records vault, were completely untouched.
The county government's phone system, however, was not so lucky. The system has suffered extensive damage, and in the near term, residents may have difficulty connecting with county offices, even those not located in the building. Phones in the Justice Center are unaffected.
“The system will have to be replaced, and it will probably completely fail within the next 30 days,” Ehmann said. “Some calls are getting through fine and some are cutting off after 20 seconds. It is not a sure thing.”
The voicemail system is expected to be equally unreliable, and the county is asking that residents be patient until the phone system is replaced.
Despite challenges with the phones, the county resumed business on July 1. The planning department and other offices normally located in the basement have been temporarily moved to the county commissioners' offices on the third floor.
Initial inspections revealed that the 102-year-old building sustained no structural damage, and tests for disturbed asbestos and for mold were both negative. Minor damage to areas containing lead paint will require cleanup before the basement can be reopened to both employees and the public.
County officials and the county's insurance company are still tabulating the cost of the damage, and Ehmann is confident that it will be covered.
The county is providing updates regarding the progress of the cleanup on the Elbert County homepage at www.elbertcounty-co.gov.
Though referred to as the Elbert County Courthouse, the building is no longer used by Colorado's 18th Judicial District and instead serves as the primary administration building for Elbert County.