Fort Lauderdale office is bureaucratic Amityville Horror for workers

January 13, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Deep in the bowels of th Broward County Governmental Center, there's a copy machine that turns itself on and spews paper as if possessed. There are computer screens that convulse and black out. And the electric typewriter in the corner clacks away -- even though it's unplugged.

Poltergeists? Haunted microchips?

"We've got a serious problem here, but we have no idea what's causing it," said Sue Baldwin, a records controller. "So far, we don't think it has any supernatural origins."

Her boss suspects the worst.

"We have tossed around the idea of sending an exorcist in there," Administrative Services Director Phil Allen joked. "It may be our last hope."

The problems started in October after contractors gutted the Records Division offices on the ground floor of County Hall in downtown Fort Lauderdale and refitted it with new rugs, furniture, computers and phones.

Shortly after they returned, office workers expecting a comfy new work space were greeted instead by a bureaucratic Amityville Horror -- blips, glitches and electrical conniptions that turned their jobs into a living hell.

"And it's been getting worse ever since," Ms. Baldwin said.

So who you gonna call?

"We're sort of like the Ghostbusters," said Mark Tatum, a trouble-shooter on electromagnetics who works for BWS Architects and Engineers, the firm hired by the county to purge the electronic demons.

"There's a lot of speculation right now about what it might be."

Said Ms. Baldwin: "He's looking at everything -- bouncing microwaves from another building, stray radio signals, electrical interference. "We're not having any trouble anywhere else in the building. Whatever it is, it's definitely something in that office."

Could it be . . . Satan?

"In my experience, the chances of that are slim to none," Mr. Tatum said.

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