The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

New gym floor warped by sprinkler

Old heads on building fire suppression failed


A faulty sprinkler head in the old fire suppression system at the Hermon Hutchens Elementary School gym failed, damaging the newly refurbished wood floor.

The incident occurred a week ago Monday after a group of people went to play basketball, only to find the wood slats were wet and a slow drip was coming from the ceiling. The group notified Chris Karna, a district maintenance man, of the find.

Karna said the faulty head burst open just as he came into the gym.

“I thought I was going to vomit,” Karna said as he showed members of the board of education the damaged areas after Monday night’s school board meeting.

Jacob Jensen, district superintendent, broke the news of the damages to the board of education Monday night, describing what Karna saw at the time of the incident.

“He’s guessing about 30 gallons of water squirted on the floor,” Jensen said.

The flood raised a long blister a few inches in height down the length of one section of the flooring, and caused minor warping on another section that is estimated to be 20 feet wide and 30 feet long.

“We’re hoping it’ll even itself out,” Jensen said of the secondary damage.

Valdez Star photo

School district maintenance man Chris Karna shows the damage to the newly refurbished gym floor at Hermon Hutchens Elementary School. A faulty head on the gym’s fire suppression system burst, causing the water damage.

The most conspicuous area will have to be pulled up and replaced according to the district.

A piece of plywood is likely to be placed in the damaged area to allow the gym to be used in the coming school year as city and district administrators work to figure out how to repair the floor, which had just been refurbished at a cost of over $100,000.

“We’re trying to help them out the best we can,” John Hozey, city manager, said in an interview Tuesday morning. “It’s dependant on the magnitude of the repair.”

City and school officials have been struggling in recent months to define what types of maintenance and repairs are the responsibility of the district and what is the responsibility of the buildings’ owners; the City of Valdez.

Hozey said the obsolete sprinkler heads will be replaced before the end of summer.


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