Faucet left on over weekend, water damages courthouse

Office

Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

Greg Erpenbach, facilities superintendent for the Yellowstone County Courthouse, talks about flood damage in the clerk and recorde’s office on the fourth floor.

Two floors of the Yellowstone County Courthouse suffered flood damage over the weekend, but you can’t blame this one on the record snowpack.

Greg Erpenbach, superintendent of facilities at the courthouse, said a faucet was left on, just barely, in a sink in Judge Rod Souza’s chambers on the fourth floor on Friday, and by Monday morning there was an inch of standing water in his chambers and courtroom, and some water in the courtroom across the hall.

Clerk

Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

Erpenbach looks up at where water was still trickling into the clerk and recorder’s office.

Water also leaked down a floor, into the records room of the clerk and recorder’s office, knocking down some saturated ceiling tiles and soaking lots of carpet. Erpenbach said none of the records themselves, or any office machines, appear to have been damaged.

“The news is, we dodged a bullet, but esthetically, it’s going to be ugly for a while,” said Clerk and Recorder Jeff Martin.

Erpenbach was more optimistic, saying the whole thing would be cleaned up by this afternoon.

The water damage was discovered Monday morning by Paul Christopher, the network administrator for the IT department, who comes in early to work on servers. Erpenbach said Christopher called him at 5:13 a.m. with the news.

All records stacks and cabinets were covered with heavy plastic as a precaution, and Billings Carpet Cleaning was called in to start drying out the carpets on the fourth and fifth floors.

Erpenbach said the file cabinet closest to where the water came through the ceiling appeared to be in good shape.

“These are good because they seal up pretty well, but once we get this cleaned up we’ll go through and take a closer look,” he said.

The clerk and recorder’s office won’t be where it is now for much longer anyway. All fourth-floor offices are scheduled to start moving into leased space in the Stillwater Building — the former James F. Battin federal courthouse, just down Third Avenue from the county courthouse — at the end of this month.

Erpenbach said the clerk and recorder’s office is scheduled to make the move in mid-June.

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