MOREAU — The town has not yet started litigation against the contractors who caused a flood when fire suppression pipes broke open.
Board members were startled to learn that at a recent meeting. Town attorney Karla Buettner said the last two administrations directed the town law firm not to take action.
“We were told not to get involved,” she said. “The prior supervisor’s office was coordinating discussion with NYMIR on whether NYMIR would take over and sue.”
NYMIR, the New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal, is the town’s insurance company.
The town expects to submit claims for repairs, but had taken no steps to fix the sprinkler system. A recent study by the town’s engineering firm indicated it will cost $42,500.
Councilman Alan Van Tassel urged the board to approve the repair.
“We can claim on this and be reimbursed,” he said. “This is in litigation. We need to move on this.”
That’s when Buettner spoke up.
“The town has never authorized litigation,” she said. “We’ve been trying to get going on this.”
The town must start litigation by March or drop any lawsuit, she said.
The contractors involved — general contractor Crisafulli Brothers and subcontractor Absolute Fire Protection, which installed the system — were given notices of claim when the flood occurred, she said.
Supervisor Todd Kusnierz asked the board to read up on the issue over the next two weeks with the intent of voting on litigation at the next meeting.
“I think we should plan on taking action,” he said.
The board did not vote on whether to pay for repairs, but Buettner advised them to take that step soon.
“You don’t have to wait for litigation to get the repairs done,” she said. “You need to get the repairs done.”
The flood happened on March 19, 2015. A fire suppression pipe in the ceiling broke, flooding offices with 2 to 3 inches of water. Two offices had to be gutted.
NYMIR paid the town $150,000 to cover damages, but did not offer funds to fix the sprinkler system, former Supervisor Gardner Congdon said last year.
He said the entire system needed to be rebuilt. Last week, board members described the work as a repair.
An inspection report from 2015 also said the system needed to be substantially rebuilt.
That report said the flood happened when an over-tightened bolt failed. But that bolt wasn’t the only problem.
Many other bolts appeared to be unevenly tightened or under-tightened, according to the inspection report.
The inspector also found flaws with the way the entire system was installed. The pipes were not pitched to allow water to drain, which means the system cannot be tested without leaving water in some of the pipes, where it could freeze in the winter and cause another flood.
In addition, the connector that inspectors use to test the system was not installed properly, according to the inspection report. The report questioned whether the system had ever been successfully tested.
The inspector also wrote that the system largely had the wrong type of joint. Workers used rolled groove joints, which trap small amounts of water. There probably wouldn’t be enough water to block a pipe with ice, but it would lead to corrosion, the inspector said.