Water break damages Florence gymnasium

This photo shows the extent of the buckling of the gymnasium floor following an extended waterline burst that occurred between May 4 and the evening of May 16
This photo shows the extent of the buckling of the gymnasium floor following an extended waterline burst that occurred between May 4 and the evening of May 16
The Florence City Council dropped a bombshell at its meeting May 21 with news that the high school gymnasium sustained serious water damage sometime between May 4, and prior to the evening of May 16.

Melanie Grimmett, who was preparing to set up for the annual Memorial Day weekend alumni festivities, notified Mayor Robert Gayle about the situation.

Gayle said Grimmett stated the gymnasium floor, concession stand and downstairs in the FFA area, band room, and other partitioned off classrooms were damaged by water.

“The only exception was the stage because of its elevation,” he said. “Otherwise one or more inches of water ran down the walls through the concrete and ended up in classrooms downstairs. I can’t even estimate the gallons of water (that flooded the building).”

The gymnasium floor and the structure were built in 1952, he said. The building is insured for $100,000 with a $25,000 deductible, but the water damage means restoring the gym will be expensive.

Councilor Riley Ross said with the deductible, depreciation and what remains from the $100,000, the council probably won’t be looking at a new gymnasium floor.

“Our adjuster recognizes we have a large deductible and minimal budget,” he said.

Regarding the painted floors in the basement, Ross said that until they peel the paint away, the water is just going to lay beneath it.

“We are looking at a two-part payment plan,” he said. “First, we will pay what we have, minus depreciation, minus the $25,000 deductible, and if the building is 60 years old, it probably will be depreciated at 40 percent—leaving two payments of $20,000.”

Councilor Trayce Warner said she looked at photos taken by City Clerk Janet Robinson showing the main buckle was a good foot up from the floor surface, with a “lake” on the other side of that buckle.

Warner said the building is not supported by tax dollars, and what money was paid through the special education fund as rent was used to maintain the building and pay the insurance premium.

“Once the building is cleaned up, we can weigh all the options,” she said. “We can still play basketball (on cement), and still have banquets.”

Whatever the plans will be for the gymnasium, Warner and Ross both agreed something will be done.

“We will not let it fall into ruin,” she said.

Gayle said the water could have been running for two days or almost two weeks.

One person asked: “How hard can it be to check (the building more frequently)?”

Another resident was concerned about the possibility of mold, adding that not only did the water need to be vacuumed up, but her suggestion was to add dryers in the upstairs and downstairs areas.

Warner said that with a cement base underneath the floor, the water is trapped up against the borrow of the wood.

“It’s not only coming in from the top, but the water is soaking up from underneath.”

The council agreed no decisions could be made until more information is made available to them.

Assessing the damage, Phil Theimer of Topeka, a representative of EMC Insurance in Emporia, said the first step was to get a remediation crew in as soon as possible to deal with possible mold, drying the carpets downstairs, floors and other areas.

Other business

In other business, the council:

◼ approved Gayle’s appointment of Janet Robinson as city clerk/court clerk; Mark Slater as fire chief; Mary Jane Grimmett, city treasurer; Randy Pankratz, city attorney; Michael Llamas, city judge.

◼ asked for more discussion on hiring a superintendent before allowing Gayle to approve one without council’s input.

◼ discussed increasing water rates from $18 to $20 for the first 2,000 gallons.

◼ heard the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers planned to look over the dike in Florence May 22.

◼ planned to meet with FEMA about the flood plain management May 22.

◼ tentatively approved a water lease with the De Forest family at $6,000 annually for 10 years after the current contract ends in 2019. That rate will be locked in for the first decade. The $6,000 annual payment is for access to the 4.4 acre as and property pump house.