Sunday, May 20, 2018
News Roundup

Burst pipe forces Hillsborough County Center in downtown Tampa to close

TAMPA — A burst water pipe forced the closure Monday of the Frederick B. Karl County Center in downtown Tampa.

The 28-story building at 601 E Kennedy Blvd. is set to reopen today, but work remains drying out floors and walls and determining the cause of the leak, said Tom Fass, the county's real estate and facilities management services director.

The third-floor pipe, which sends water into the building's fire sprinkler system, burst about 7 p.m. Sunday, Fass said. A security guard noticed it and county employees stopped the leak within 30 minutes. But by then enough water had streamed from the high-pressure pipe to flood the bottom three floors.

The water damaged the building's potable water system, disabling all bathrooms above the second floor, and knocked out several elevators. By late Monday afternoon, bathroom service had been restored throughout the building, where about 1,200 county government employees work.

Monday's incident provided county offices with an opportunity to test their COOPs — Continuity of Operation Plans — that are used to ensure government services continue in an emergency like a hurricane. Many employees worked from home or reported to remote sites.

Large plastic tubes lined the second floor — County Commission chambers and commissioners' offices — pumping hot air into walls to dry residual water and prevent mold. More than 100 carpet dryer units were in use around the building.

The damage could cost more than $200,000, Fass said, but the cost to the county should not exceed $100,000, its insurance deductible.

A similar incident happened on Memorial Day weekend, Fass said, but because it was a holiday weekend the building did not need to be closed. County workers are trying to figure out what caused the pipe the burst.

"We're trying to investigate what caused this, so we're not dealing with this again in three weeks," Fass said. "It's been a long two days."

Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or [email protected]

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