Who'll pay to fix flooded county center?

Tampa, Florida -- With two floods in just three weeks' time, we're asking questions about who'll pay to fix water damage at Hillsborough County's government headquarters.

More than a thousand workers have cleared out of the Hillsborough County Government Center in Downtown Tampa.

The building at 601 E. Kennedy Blvd. was shut down for the day Monday after a major water leak flooded the bottom floors.

Late Monday afternoon the county said the building will reopen for business on Tuesday. Crews were able to restore water service after a malfunction on a fitting that is part of the fire protection system.

County workers used plans last practiced for the Republican National Convention to get all 1,200 staff members normally at the center out to remote locations to keep services going.

Water pumps are broken, so on the fourth floor and above, the bathrooms aren't working. But down on floors three, two, and one -- it's a lot uglier.

The county's staff says a leaking pipe in the fire sprinkler system sent water all through those floors at what's officially called the Frederick B. Karl County Center on Sunday night.

In the County Commission chambers, long inflatable air tubes are drying the carpet. In first-floor offices, sections of the wall have been pulled off to prevent mold from forming inside.

And Roger Traboulay's sub shop is full of industrial fans, unusable food, and machines that don't work anymore.

"It's sad. It's tough. A lot of equipment has been lost," the owner of the usually busy Sobik's Subs said as he looked over the damage.

And what really irks him? This is the second time he's been through this in less than a month.

"We had a similar incident over Memorial Day weekend," said Tom Fass, the assistant county administrator, who's leading the county's cleanup team.

"And because we've had another incident, we are very concerned about what the cause is."

Fass says his staff and the contractor that recently did fire sprinkler work at the county center building are meeting to sort out what went wrong.

And I wanted to know -- what are we all going to have to pay for the cleanup, the restoration, and any lost work?

"How much is this costing taxpayers to be shut down like this?" I asked Fass.

"At this time, we don't know. The county is insured. And our insurer is notified of the incident, and so we're working through the insurance company. But the county should be reimbursed," Fass said.

"The county will also pursue reimbursement from the contractor responsible for the fire sprinkler system, as well."

As the hours go by, different areas of the building will reopen. Fass says he wants to have the most heavily damaged spots open by Wednesday or Thursday.


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