Tuesday, July 16, 2013
By Ed Runyan
About 130 boxes’ worth of records stored in the Trumbull County Archives office in the basement of the county-owned Stone Building were damaged as a result of a sewer backup caused by Wednesday’s rainstorm.
The basement of the Stone Building, at the corner of North Park Avenue and High Street, was flooded by up to 18 inches of water, said Diana Marchese, Trumbull County Recorder.
A crew from Underground Archives of Wampum, Pa., arrived Friday to assess the damage and began to remove damaged items Monday from the archives office and from the basement of the nearby Wean Building, which also houses records from various county offices.
The cost of repairing damaged records will be about $100,000, said Marchese, who has oversight for record-keeping functions at both buildings.
Records damaged at the Stone Building include deeds and mortgages kept by the recorder’s office, as well as estate-tax records kept by the probate court and some civil and criminal court cases maintained by the clerk of courts office.
The archives office contains deed books and other historical records dating back to 1800 and the beginning of the Connecticut Western Reserve, because the county seat of the Reserve — which stretched from the Pennsylvania line to Sandusky — was in Warren.
Marchese said she doesn’t know whether any of the earliest deed books or other historical documents are among those damaged, but the damaged documents will be repaired. All were previously scanned and digitized for electronic retrieval.
Marchese and Judge Thomas A. Swift of the Trumbull County Probate Court say the damaged records will be freeze-dried, decontaminated of bacteria from the sewage and returned to the county.
Judge Swift said the probate records that were damaged are not scanned and digitized, but they are not used a great deal. He is required by Ohio law to preserve them.
The archive office, which has been in use at that location for more than 20 years, had not experienced anything but small amounts of flooding during the past couple of decades, but this was the second flood it has had in the past three weeks.
The first flood was in late June, but it did relatively little damage, which was taken care of by county employees, Marchese said.
Afterward, the county checked the building and found that the flooding didn’t result from anything “on our end,” Marchese said.
Judge Swift said he had decided to raise records under his care about 20 inches off the floor because of weather forecasts calling for an unusual amount of rain, so none of his records were immersed in flood waters, but some did get damp from their proximity to the water.
Judge Swift said his staff secured boxes and planned to remove about 200 books of records Monday night so they would be ready for Underground Archives to remove. The judge said he wanted his own personnel to pack up the record books themselves using bubble wrap and boxes to ensure they would be handled as safely as possible.
Meanwhile, the Stone Building and Wean Building are not the only ones in downtown Warren that sustained flood damage in the storm.
Mike Wasser, executive director of business operations for Warren City Schools, said the school district’s administrative offices across Park Avenue from the Stone Building had about 6 inches of water in the basement by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, shortly after a 30-minute downpour.
Workers removed the floor moldings and are considering tearing up the carpeting. Wasser said he’s been in contact with the school district’s insurance companies about the damage but doesn’t know what the total is yet.
Greg Bartholomew, a Warren councilman and owner of All American Cards and Comics on West Market Street — on the other side of Courthouse Square from the Stone Building and board of education offices — said backed-up sewers left three feet of water in his store’s basement. He learned that several other buildings along West Market Street also had a sewer backup in their basements.
Calls to Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, safety- service director Enzo Cantalamessa and the three county commissioners were not returned Monday.