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Cause of burst pipe at County Center in downtown Tampa still unknown

TAMPA — Three days after a burst pipe flooded the bottom three floors of the Frederick B. Karl County Center, forcing the closure of the downtown Tampa building for a day, Hillsborough County staff still don't know what caused the mishap — but they're not happy about it.

Tom Fass, assistant county administrator in charge of facilities, updated county commissioners Wednesday on the incident, the second major flooding caused by a burst pipe on the building's third floor in less than a month.

This week's flooding, just like on Memorial Day weekend, was caused by a leak in pipes that send water to fire sprinklers for the 28-story building.

The flooding damaged the building's potable water system, disabling most bathrooms and several elevators. The cost to fix those problems and to dry out the bottom three floors will run "several hundred thousand dollars," Fass told commissioners. The county will pay its $100,000 insurance deductible, Fass said, while insurer AIG investigates.

The building at 601 E Kennedy Blvd. re-opened Tuesday, but commissioners' offices were still closed Wednesday while they were being dried out and repaired. They should be re-opened today, Fass said, except for commission Chairman Mark Sharpe's office, which sits directly underneath where the leak happened.

Sharpe lauded staff efforts.

"My office is happy working out of a cubbyhole on the 27th (floor)," Sharpe told Fass.

Sharpe then jokingly asked if there was any way to move the pipes so they're over Commissioner Ken Hagan's office instead.

In other action Wednesday:

• Commissioners authorized the staff to pursue the purchase of two private utility systems whose customers have complained for years of dirty, overpriced water. Residents in the Eastlake area who are customers of Pluris Eastlake Water and Pluris Pebble Creek Water have repeatedly requested the county purchase the systems. Commissioners asked staff to explore acquiring the utilities — which have about 2,500 customers — through eminent domain if necessary.

Pluris representatives have said their systems' pipes are old, and noted the state Department of Health and the county have tested water samples and found them acceptably clean.

• The county-owned Museum of Science & Industry announced a private vendor, Ovations Food Services, will take over its cafe. This news comes three months after problems with roaches and rodents forced a brief closure of the cafe and led to conversation at a commission meeting. In the Tampa Bay area, Ovations already operates food and beverage offerings at Lowry Park Zoo and Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Will Hobson can be reached at (813) 226-3400 or whobson@tampabay.com.

Cause of burst pipe at County Center in downtown Tampa still unknown 06/18/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 10:39pm]
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