Houston County Jail Administrator Mark Schiltz opens the doorway to the county's historic jail building after the water line break dumped thousands of gallons of water into the structure. PHOTO: submitted
Houston County Jail Administrator Mark Schiltz opens the doorway to the county's historic jail building after the water line break dumped thousands of gallons of water into the structure. PHOTO: submitted
When a water line burst last week in the historic Houston County Jail, approximately 300,000 gallons flooded the interior of the structure. As bad as that sounds, it could have been worse.

Personnel/facilities director Tess Arrick-Kruger gave county commissioners the latest details on the incident during their April 15 meeting. She was joined by several county staffers, including jail administrator Mark Schiltz.

"We had pipes frozen. It was a sprinkler pipe," she said.

Arrick-Kruger also reported that water from the building followed conduit into the historic courthouse and justice center, doing "ancillary" damage. "We're still determining what kind of problems or issues we'll have from those," she said, but "it doesn't look like too much damage.

The "old" courthouse boiler room was affected, as were the electrical room and information technology closet in the justice center, but Arrick-Kruger said that the amount of water that reached other buildings was "minimal."

Automated systems manager/custodian John Dollar said that the electrical system of the old jail should be "pretty simple to fix... The water did not get to the level of the lugs on the disconnects." Electrical contractors were already at work, he added.

"Hopefully, by this afternoon we'll have light and heat in there.

Heat in the building has been maintained ever since the old jail was vacated on Oct. 31, 2011, Arrick-Kruger stated. The heat loop leads from the boiler room at the historic courthouse to the old jail. Back in 2011, the building's plumbing was drained and the drains winterized, but the sprinkler system was purposely left operative.

An insurance adjustor sent by the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust has approved additional temporary heat via natural gas furnaces, Dollar said.

"The building has to be 65 degrees before we get a cleaning crew in," Arrick-Kruger noted.

She added, "There's no out-of-pocket expense for the county at this point," since the building is still insured through MCIT. That policy includes a replacement value of $2.2 million, with a $2,500 deductible.

"But it's 50 cents on the dollar if you don't replace it," Schiltz said.

Information technology director Andrew Milde said that conduit which runs to the server room also picked up some moisture, and some intermittent failures have occurred in the fiber cable "cluster" since the incident. That problem may be coincidental, he said, but testing was being done by Ace Communications to sort out the cause.

Arrick-Kruger added that damages to the other two buildings may not be on the same deductible. The total damage estimate won't be available until cleanup is completed, and a contractor estimates the cost to make repairs.

"To-date we don't have any indications that we have structural deficiencies," she said.

Spring Grove based company Pathfinder CRM will complete a walk-through of the building within days, Arrick-Kruger said. That "historical evaluation" will focus on what might be salvageable, with emphasis on the historical aspects of the structure. The Houston County Jail is listed on the national register of historic places.

Commissioner Steve Schuldt said that it's too early to jump to any conclusions. "It's possible that it might need to be condemned," he stated. "We don't know.