The books can be replaced if damaged, county Recorder Diana Marchese said.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Last week, title searchers named two cockroaches they discovered amid books of 100-year-old deeds and mortgages in the Trumbull County Administration Building subbasement.
Now, they're floating sailboats constructed from plastic coffee cup lids on a puddle of standing water on one side of the room, near the building's electrical junction box.
"Next, we will have a regatta," said one local attorney, whose work frequently takes him to the subbasement, which once held boilers.
The county recorder began keeping records in the subbasement after the recorder's office moved back into the renovated administrative building in May.
Since then, not a day has gone by when there has not been water on the concrete floor of the room, say title searchers who spend their days there.
In two spots, walls are stained with what appears to be mold.
Concerned: None of the records -- some of which date to the early 1800s -- have been touched by water, but people who work with them say they are concerned they are being damaged.
"This dampness is going to do something," said Mildred Hawes, a title searcher with Gardner Title Agency. "No doubt about that."
Some books have acquired a musty smell, said Genevieve Bauman, a title searcher with Bauman Land Title Agency Inc.
"At this point I don't doubt what she is telling you is true," said Diana Marchese, who is responsible for the records as county recorder.
The mortgages and deeds are printed on linen paper that is much more durable than regular paper, she said. Should any of the books be destroyed, they can be replaced from microfilm copies.
The county maintenance department continues to work to fix the leaks, Marchese said. The next step will be spraying dye along Harmon Street to see where surface water is getting into the building.
County commissioners are ultimately responsible for building maintenance and repairs. "This is a major hiccup, and we will work through it," said Commissioner Michael O'Brien.
On Monday, the water on the subbasement floor was pooled around the electrical junction box for the building, several yards from the shelves where records are kept.
The puddle extended past a low metal barrier county maintenance workers put in a few weeks ago to channel it down a drain in the floor.
"It just stays there," said Bauman. "It has been sitting here for two solid weeks."
Two weeks ago, maintenance workers went to work cleaning up the basement after water dripped down the outside walls behind bookshelves.
That leak was caused by gardeners watering around the outside of the building after the sump pump happened to fail, Marchese said.
"I can't say it will never happen again, but it is not going to happen on a regular basis, by any means."
Putting records in the basement was not initially part of the plan to renovate the administrative building.
Midway through the $4 million project, officials realized that there would be no room to keep the records on the first floor after new restrooms were installed, Marchese said. The subbasement got a new coat of paint on the floor and walls, new lights and climate control equipment before the records were brought in.
"This is like the Taj Mahal compared with what we used to have," Marchese said. "They may have some unsightly areas, but it is clean, and the records are accessible."