Local News

Flood damage to close part of Chapel Hill Town Hall for months

Posted July 31, 2013 5:32 p.m. EDT
Updated August 1, 2013 1:15 p.m. EDT

— Weeks after a torrent of water rushed into Town Hall, Chapel Hill officials said Wednesday that the first floor of the building will remain closed for repairs for another six months to a year.

Almost 5 inches of rain fell within a few hours on June 30, causing flash floods that inundated several apartment complexes and the 42-year-old Town Hall, at 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. To prevent the spread of mold, crews removed all furniture, ripped up carpeting and tore out the bottom 2 feet of drywall throughout the first floor.

Until repairs are complete, the Town Council will meet at the Orange County Southern Human Services Center, at 2501 Homestead Drive. Local boards and commissions will meet at various locations, such as the Chapel Hill Public Library, officials said.

Meetings won't be broadcast live on the Gov TV-18 channel because the production studio was also affected by the flood, officials said. Town staff members are trying to determine how best to provide video of local government meetings in the coming months.

The Revenue Department has been moved temporarily to the second floor of Town Hall, but officials said a payment center would be set up at University Square, at 123 W. Franklin St., sometime in late August.

"I had no knowledge I had to climb all those steps, walk all the way down and find out where I can take my money," Sophia Mitchell said after paying her property taxes. "As long as they put it somewhere where we don't have to travel a long way just to pay our taxes, I guess it will be OK."

Officials said people paying their taxes or public housing rents can also mail checks to Town Hall. Permit payments made by credit card or check can be taken on the third floor of Town Hall, in either the Planning Department or Inspections Division.

Also, they said, visitors to Town Hall who have difficulty climbing steps should park on the second-floor parking level.

Estimated clean-up and reconstruction costs could top $400,000, officials said. The town's insurance will cover a portion of it, but the Town Council will have to decide how to juggle funds to pick up the rest of the cost.

In addition to repairing Town Hall, crews continue working in the housing units at Airport Gardens public housing neighborhood, in the 800 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Eighteen of the 26 units there were flooded, and officials said repairs and mold remediation are expected to be completed by the end of August.

"We are preparing a report on the causes of this flooding in both Town Hall and Airport Gardens so we can make improvements to avoid this situation in the future," Town Manager Roger Stancil said in a statement.