Damage to building is costly to fire unit

Leaking drain line ruins floor, ceiling

$50,000 in repairs

April 09, 2001|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

Westminster Volunteer Fire Department stands to lose about 10 percent in business at its fire hall, including revenue from its Friday night bingo games, in the next month as workers clean up more than $50,000 in damage caused by a leaking hot water drain line.

"It's been devastating," Robert Schultz, vice president of the Fire Department, said Friday as he surveyed the 2,600-square-foot community fire hall known as John Street Quarters.

The Fire Department also has lost revenue from renting out the hall three or four times a week. The Fire Department has an $850,000 operating budget, 10 percent of which is from hall rentals, said Jim Bangerd, president of the Fire Department.

In the $5.25 million red brick building, the room, with hunter green molding, chair rail and mauve wallpaper, looks more like a hotel meeting room than a typical fire hall. The department moved into the building from East Main Street in October 1998.

Because of the leak, the floor crafted from Italian marble has been torn up and will cost $50,000 to replace, Schultz said. Other items damaged by steam and water are the room's ceiling tiles and grid, stereo system and television and parts of the electrical system. Schultz declined to estimate total damage.

Fire officials discovered the leak the morning of Feb. 19 when a staff member noticed water flowing from under the hall's public entrance that faces Route 27. About 2 inches of water covered the floor, and the room was thick with steam.

"When we opened the [inside] door, there was so much steam, you couldn't even see across the room," Bangerd said.

Shultz isn't sure when the leak began. He said the valve on a hot water drain line in a storage room next to the hall was opened. Pressure built up inside the line until the metal cap on the end of the valve cracked and allowed 180-degree water and steam to escape.

In addition to the hall, the 35,420-square-foot two-story fire station on John Street features seven double equipment bays, a high-tech communication command center, a county-funded 911 backup center and upstairs living quarters.

Insurance will cover the cost of the hall repairs, which are expected to be completed by next month. Events at the hall have been moved or canceled.

Voting for Westminster city elections May 14, planned at John Street Quarters, will occur elsewhere in the building if repairs have not been completed, said Westminster city clerk John Dutterer.

Even if repairs are on schedule, the department stands to lose thousands of dollars for three months of lost business. The community hall is usually booked with weddings, meetings, banquets and other events. About 100 people go to the hall for bingo every week, Schultz said.

An average rental of the hall costs $300. Johanssons Dining House and Catering books and caters events at the Westminster hall.

"It will come back," Bangerd said. "It's just going to take time."

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