2013 flood causes $200K damage at new Cedar Rapids City Hall

Flood insurance will cover most of cost

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March 28, 2014 | 5:50 pm

CEDAR RAPIDS — City officials are getting the lower level of City Hall back in shape after it surprised the city and took on water as the Cedar River reached its tenth highest crest ever here on June 2.

The building — which had served as the former federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids before the city’s historic 2008 flood and then was renovated and transformed into City Hall — sustained an estimated $200,000 damage during this year’s flood, Yvonne Aubrey, the city’s risk manager, reported on Tuesday.

The amount is minor when compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars of damages and costs to rebuild and replace public buildings after the 2008 flood. Nonetheless, the 2013 damage and the river’s latest rise was a reminder of what the historic flood disaster five years before had done.

Aubrey said replacing drywall and flooring from this year’s damage at City Hall will cost about $165,000 while the cleanup cost an estimated $31,000.

The city carries insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program with $500,000 coverage for the building and $500,000 for the building’s contents. The deductible for the building coverage is $1,000, Aubrey said.

After the city’s historic flood of June 2008, the U.S. General Services Administration spent $7.2 million to replace heating, air-conditioning and mechanical systems and make other flood-related repairs to the old courthouse before handing the building over to the city in 2010.

In exchange, the city provided the federal government with the land on which the new federal courthouse has been built at 111 Seventh Ave. SE.

In the old building’s transformation into City Hall, the city placed conference rooms, a training room and an exercise room in the building’s lower level.

City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said in June that the city designed the finished lower level of City Hall with the thought that it could take on flood water without sustaining significant damage.

Even so, Pomeranz said he was surprised when he arrived about 7:30 a.m. Saturday, June 1 to use City Hall’s lower-level exercise room only to find water coming through the floor. City crews rushed into to move equipment and furniture, to place sandbags to contain water in part of the lower level and to vacuum up the water.

Sandi Fowler, the city’s assistant city manager, on Tuesday said the lower level began to take on water when the Cedar River hit the 17.3-foot mark on its way to a crest of 18.23 feet on June 2.

Fowler said the water that entered the lower level resulted from river pressure that forced clear groundwater and not river water to seep through weak spots in the floor.

The city is now using a concrete injection process to fill in the weak spots to prevent groundwater from getting back into the building. The weak spots might have been identified and fixed during the building’s renovation into City Hall, but the city was in the midst of a drought and groundwater problems weren’t noticeable, Fowler said.

She said none of the lower level contents, including furniture and exercise equipment, was damaged in the June event.

The equipment, she said, is now back in the exercise room and is being used by city employees. Conference rooms on the First Street SE side of the lower level, which took on little water, will be repaired by city staff and returned to service in August. Work on the river side of the lower level, which includes a larger employee training room, will be bid out and will be completed this fall.

An epoxy floor coating will go where carpeting had been before the June flood event, Fowler added.

The Veterans Memorial Building on May’s Island had been home to City Hall since the building opened in 1927 and until the 2008 flood. The flood damaged the Vets Building as it did the former federal courthouse, but the City Council decided to move City Hall to the former courthouse, in part, because its layout was better for a City Hall.

The Vets Building, which is in the midst of an $18.5 million flood-recovery renovation, did not take on water during the 2013 flood.

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