Plumbing issues force commissioners meeting

The Haakon County Board of Commissioners are being forced to solve an issue that has long plagued them, that being the courthouse plumbing in the aging 78-year-old Haakon County Courthouse.

Late Tuesday evening, April 22, 2008, the Haakon County Public Library started receiving water from above. Librarian Alison Kattelmann noticed the leak about 6:00 p.m. Luckily, the leak occurred the one day a week that the library is open until 7:00 p.m., otherwise the damage could have been much worse. Kattelmann noted that no damage was done to the any books or computers in the library. The leak occurred above a light fixture near the library door. It appeared that water had collected in the light prior to dripping to the floor.

Water in the courthouse was immediately turned off. Dustin Lurz was able to find the leak and deemed the pipe unfixable. The water pipe ran to the second floor restroom, which has now been closed.

The library was closed for a couple of days, until the area was dried out. There was also a smell of mold and mildew, reported Kattelmann. An air purifier was installed to help alleviate this odor.

The commissioners met in a special session Wednesday, April 23, at 3:00 p.m. Present for the meeting were commissioners Neal Brunskill, Rita O'Connell and Lawrence Schofield. Lurz was on hand to advise the board as to the plumbing situation.

Lurz reported that the water line which leaked had a finger-sized hole. Lurz stated that there is no temporary fix to be had for this restroom. A water pipe that he had to replace previously was on display in the commissioners room. It showed that the water lines are nearly completely clogged with sediment and corrosion. He said he only thing to do was completely replace all the existing water and sewer lines in the courthouse.

He proposed running new lines up along the walls in the offices and then boxing the lines in, creating their own wall. It was noted that the blueprints for the courthouse had been located. Lurz noted that some of the plumbing is buried in concrete that is several inches thick.

Another area of concern includes the roof drains. Lurz noted he is not sure how to redo those drains so they are brought into the new drains. He stated the six inch cast iron drains run along the outside walls and cannot be readily accessed.

The sewer drains pose their own set of problems. The north and south drains exit the building at different locations. After exiting the building, the south drain curves north and dumps into the north drain just outside of the west edge of the courthouse.

Lurz noted he would like to drain the southside bathrooms into the north drain inside the building or into a lift station and have it pump the sewage into the north drain. The courthouse currently has a lift station, which would be replaced with a newer model.

Lurz stated the main bathrooms on the first floor could be converted into handicapped accessible facilities. The courthouse would only need one set of these type of facilities to met Americans with Disabilities Act code requirements. Lurz said the problem with these bathrooms is that the plumbing does not run in the tunnel, but are buried in the floor. He would have to cut the floors to replace the plumbing.

Lurz added that while the new plumbing is being installed, the services to restrooms on the second, third and fourth floors would be shut off. He thought that the first floor restrooms could be left operational until the time came to work on them. At that time other options would have to be looked at until the plumbing was completed.

Lurz informed the commissioners that the courthouse would require all new plumbing, from fixtures, floor drains, vents and pipes. It would be a whole new system.

Lurz and the commissioners toured the courthouse to view the problems and what solutions could possibly work. The tour lasted about 90 minutes.

Lurz said that before he could complete a quote he would need to know what type of fixtures the board would want. He stated it would take him a month to prepare the quote. A contractor would have to submit a quote to Lurz for the carpentry aspect of the project to be included with his quote.

Because it is an emergency situation, the board of commissioners does not have to bid the project. They can get quotes and award the project to the contractor whose quote they like the best.

The commissioners have discussed the plumbing issue several times in the past few years. Contractors that were contacted by the Haakon County auditor's office declined to submit quotes because of the unknowns. Patricia Freeman, Haakon County auditor, noted this is still the case. She reported that she had contacted plumbers in Rapid City and they did not wish to submit quotes for the project.