Burst pipe floods some Senate offices in Annapolis

A rusted pipe burst Monday afternoon in the William S. James Senate Office Building in Annapolis, flooding some rooms on two floors and prompting the Department of General Services to shut the building.

Thirty-five of the state's 47 senators have offices in the building, and staff members were moving equipment out of offices on the third and fourth floors Monday afternoon. The pipe burst on the west side of the fourth floor, where many Republican members have their offices.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said last night that offices on the first and second floors will reopen Tuesday, while the third and fourth floors could remain closed a few more days. He said a contractor has been called in to prevent mold damage. Some senators will be given space in conference rooms to use as temporary office space, Miller said.

Sam Cook, a General Services administrator, said that a 3-inch pipe connected to the building's sprinkler system rusted out and opened. The problem was discovered about 1:30 p.m. Monday. "Most of the damage was just ceiling tiles dropped and the floor is wet," Cook said. He said a restoration company was examining the site Monday evening.

The Georgian-style building, built in 1938, is the older of the two Senate office buildings. Most of it is set aside for individual senators' offices, while the hearing rooms and committee offices are in the Thomas V. Mike Miller Building.

One of the senators whose offices were severely damaged was Baltimore County's Delores Kelley, who said she was sitting at a table holding a meeting when water began to come through the ceiling and tiles began to come down.

"We had water coming out of light fixtures," the veteran Democrat said. Kelley said she injured herself trying to move computers and other equipment out of the way. When the order came to evacuate, there wasn't time to lock up, she said.

"We had to leave everything wide open — that upset me. You feel kind of vulnerable," Kelley said.

Sen. James N. Robey, a Democrat from Howard County, said his first-floor office was spared, but he saw the leak. "It was like a waterfall coming down the elevator shaft," he said. He noted that his socks were wet from walking around the building.

Cook said the building was evacuated in part because the sprinkler system was not operational, but it was repaired later Monday.

Sen. Barry Glassman, a Harford County Republican, said his office is on the dry side of the building. But late Monday afternoon, he said he was not permitted to enter the building.

"It's a busy time to be away from the phones," he said.

The Maryland General Assembly began its annual 90-day session last Wednesday. Lawmakers typically do not meet during the day on Mondays, but they were back in Annapolis on Monday evening for an 8 o'clock session.

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