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Water damage may hasten DNA move from Elgin Tower Building

Second-floor ceiling tiles ElgTower Building peeled fell due burst water pipe late last week. An adjoining room had water flowing

Second-floor ceiling tiles in the Elgin Tower Building peeled and fell due to a burst water pipe late last week. An adjoining room had water flowing like an open faucet, according to Downtown Neighborhood Association Executive Director Deirdre White. | Janelle Walker for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 15, 2014 6:23AM

ELGIN — A broken water pipe in the Tower Building’s upper, unheated floors led to significant flooding last week in the Downtown Neighborhood Association offices and to several floors in the landmark downtown building, according to the DNA.

The damage likely means the DNA’s timeline to move out of the building have been pushed up.

DNA Executive Director Deirdre White discovered the damage — and water running from the first-floor DNA office’s ceilings — on Friday morning.

“I discovered a rainfall in the building,” White said.

Water was running from the ceiling tiles and left at least an inch of water on sodden carpet in the office’s multi-purpose room, White said. Water ran over office desks, computer equipment, storage and other media, she said

The office computer server also was being rained on, she said, but was salvaged from the water by staff from Future Link.

A city of Elgin inspector checked the building Monday, said City Manager Sean Stegall.

“We had an inspector go though it,” Stegall said. “There is water, and the amount of water in the building is a major inconvenience, but there are no imminent life safety issues.”

However, there are other problems with the Tower Building, he said.

“They are over $1,000 in arrears on their water bill,” Stegall said. If that situation is not remedied in the next few days, the building will be shut down immediately, he added.

Cleanup under way

Once the cascading water stopped, DNA staff, board members and volunteers spent much of Friday and Saturday using shop vacuums, dehumidifiers, fans and other equipment to clean up the mess, White said.

A planed move out of the space — donated to the downtown association by the Stickling Foundation, the Tower Building’s owners — likely will be moved up, White said.

The decision to move came about due to the proposed deal with Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co. to purchase and renovate the Tower Building, at 100 E. Chicago St. The weekend’s water damage should not change those plans, Stegall said.

“Gorman is still working on plans and engineering, and this will not affect it at all, as their project is a complete gut job” and renovation, Stegall said.

White, who took over as DNA executive director in 2013, said she could not immediately find a contact phone number for building manager Neal Pitcher but emailed him after the damage and running water was discovered.

She contacted Alexander Plumbing to repair the broken pipes before Pitcher could be reached, White said.

In an email Monday afternoon to The Courier-News, Pitcher claimed the only damage to the DNA office was to ceiling tiles and that the remaining damage was being cleaned up by building staff.

“The only damage to the Tower Building caused by the water leak Friday was to about a dozen ceiling tiles in the back of the DNA office area. The broken pipe was promptly repaired Friday morning, and the building is pretty well dried out thanks to the efforts of our janitor. No other tenant areas were affected.”

The elevator operator/janitor was using a shop vacuum to clean up water on the second floor Monday.

Past problems

This is not the first time pipes have burst in the building, said Michael Copeland, executive director of the Elgin Technology Center. The co-working space opened 2½ years ago in the Tower Building but moved to 68 S. Grove Ave. in December.

“When the Elgin Technology Center was located in the Elgin Tower Building, there really didn’t seem to be any response or action taken by management to stop the issue or rectify the damage done” from previous burst pipes, Copeland said.

“There was so much damage done to many of the floors, including the second floor. I’m sure the building has insurance; I just don’t know why things were not fixed,” he added.

Copeland first heard there was water pouring from the upper floors on Thursday.

“One of the tenants from Tower came and told me water was pouring into the second floor. It takes a long time for water to get from the upper floors all the way down and saturate the floors enough to allow it to go through to the next level. I wonder when the pipes actually burst,” he said.

White and others surveyed all of the 1929 building’s 15 floors and found water damage on many of them, she said.

In one second floor room, water cascaded from the ceiling like a faucet, she said.

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