GILMANTON – A burst sprinkler pipe in the attic of the historic Gilmanton Academy has left the building which houses the town offices unusable for a number of months.
Water pouring from the broken 1-inch pipe cascaded down through the lower three floors Sunday at 10 p.m. damaging nearly everything it touched, including most of the computers used by town employees.
"Our router and our mainframe are already at the repair shop," said Selectman Don Guarino who added he understands that the town records are backed up and stored in a safe that was undamaged. He also said the town's archives are in a vault that was undamaged.
Fire Chief Joe Hempel said what the department thought was a fire alarm in the attic sounded at 10:04 p.m. and the response time was very quick.
"I just couldn't believe it," Hempel said. "There was two inches of water on the bottom floor."
Hempel said firefighters shut off the water and began covering computers, desks and other items with tarps. They moved desks and other items to help clean up the water.
"This is a significant impact to the town this year," Guarino said, noting the water had gone through every light fixture and a portion of the ceiling in the auditorium fell to the floor. He said the drywall, the ceiling in the auditorium, insulation and all of the electrical fixtures will need to be repaired.
The system is a dry system, said Guarino, meaning there is a heat-sensitive glass bulb or link that when triggered by heat or fire allows the compressed air in the system to be replaced with water. Although more expensive to install and maintain, dry sprinkler systems are more common in areas where temperatures go below freezing. Guarino said the attic is not heated.
Guarino said he thinks some water got into one of the pipe elbows and froze, causing the entire system to expel the compressed air and fill with water.
Guarino said the town is fully insured and the adjusters were at the building first thing yesterday morning with Serv-Pro – a company the specializes in cleaning water damage.
He said the town's insurer said the town will next week get a temporary on-site modular building to use as town offices. He and Town Administrator Arthur Capello estimate the Academy building will be unusable for at least four months.
According to archives from the History of Merrimack and Belknap Counties, the Gilmanton Academy was first built in 1797 and was incorporated by the state Legislature for use as a school.
On Jan. 22, 1808, the building burned to the ground because of careless disposal of ashes in a barrel. Four weeks later, the frame of the existing building was erected and the town voted to spend $250 toward its rebuilding.
The building was used as a school until the 1960s when the Gilmanton School was built on Route 140. In the mid-1980s the town moved its town offices to the Academy Building from the "Old" Town Hall that is in the Iron Works section of Gilmanton.
Guarino said that the town hall has had some recent renovations including the bell tower that was refurbished with an LCHIP or state historic preservation grant. He said the town recently refinished all of the wood flooring and he is optimistic that none of it will buckle during the drying process.
As for the immediate future, Guarino said this Thursday's selectman's meeting and special warrant article meeting for eliminating SB2 or the Official Budget Act will be held at 6:00 p.m. at the Gilmanton School. He said Saturday's public hearing for the 2015 budget or "Super Saturday" will also be held at the school at 8:30 a.m.
Town Clerk/ Tax Collector Debra Cornett said the Town Clerks and Tax Collectors in Belmont, Laconia, Alton, and Gilford have offered to help the town's taxpayers with any payments, car or truck registration or questions until her office can get back on its feet.
CUTLINE: The Gilmanton Town Clerk Tax Collectors Office was heavily damaged by an accidental sprinkler discharge at 10 p.m. Sunday. The entire building will likely have to be rehabilitated.