(La Porte, IN) - Most employees in the LaPorte County Government Complex are in the process of relocating after the building was heavily damaged in a flood caused by a broken frozen water pipe.
The two inch diameter line froze after temperatures plummeted to below zero during a blizzard a few days prior to Christmas, said LaPorte County Commissioner Joe Haney.
Haney said the broken line feeding a sprinkler head was discovered Christmas Day during a routine check of the building in downtown LaPorte. He noted that building checks are ordered during long weekends as a precaution and, in this case, employees did not report for work on Friday because of the hazardous travel and had Monday off since Christmas this time fell on a Sunday.
“If it wasn’t for that, we may not have known at least until folks came in which would have been on that Tuesday,” he said.
Haney said a lot of drywall from soaking up standing water on floors at each level of the five story structure along with carpeting, light fixtures and ceiling tiles will have to be replaced.
Two dozen or more computers and other pieces of equipment also seem damaged beyond repair, he said. The amount of damage was still being tabulated but Haney roughly estimated it in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Fortunately, the County Commissioner assured that the county has insurance to cover the damage and will only have to pay a $25,000 deductible on the policy.
Haney said employees from areas like the Health Department and Prosecutor’s Office are relocating to other places inside the complex unaffected by the flooding. Room has also been found to place them inside the nearby courthouse and across the street at the La Porte County Government Annex building. Work stations were also being created at the Michigan City courthouse and a former county government office building at 302 West 8th Street in Michigan City. Other employees are working from home.
Haney said he hopes the repairs can be finished for all of the employees to return in the spring.
The LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office on the main level was impacted to a lesser degree by water running down from the upper floors. Sheriff Ron Heeg said the damage was limited mostly to offices used sparingly by patrol supervisors toward the end of their shifts. Just one member of his administrative staff had to relocate.
“A little bit of an inconvenience but nothing we can’t handle,” he said.
Heeg said the jail, which has about 350 beds, was not impacted at all by the flooding.
Members of the public with business to conduct at the complex are urged to call in advance to find out where the departments and individuals they need to see are located and whether contact should be done with them electronically.