Smoke in basement among problems
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Severe weather that dumped several inches of rain in the Rhinelander area Monday evening kept public safety workers busy with the effects also felt at the Oneida County Courthouse.
The Rhinelander Fire Department was called to the courthouse after 7 p.m. in response to the report of smoke in the basement. Fire department lieutenant Mike Wesle said the smoke was caused by a large heating, ventilating and air conditioning motor burning out.
The troubles at the courthouse blamed on the severe weather were addressed at the beginning of Tuesday morning’s County Board meeting by buildings and grounds director Lu Ann Brunette.
“It appears that we sustained a (lightning) strike to a transformer that services the courthouse, providing our three-phase power, knocking out one leg of the three-phase (power), which caused some surges into the building,” Brunette said.
Though the power was eventually restored, Brunette said smoke filled the lower level of the building as a result of a chiller pump motor that burned out from a power surge produced by the storm.
“That (chiller pump motor) was removed and sent to be rebuilt,” she said. “We’ll have that back in a couple of days.”
Brunette said assistant facilities director Troy Huber and maintenance technician Leonard Allen were on the scene Monday evening from about 7:50 to a little after 10 and then returned Tuesday at 5:30 a.m. to assess to what damage may have been caused by the power surge.
“When they arrived on scene (Monday) night there were about 6 inches of water over the north parking lot,” Brunette said. “We just couldn’t keep up with the amount of rain that we got. There was some flooding to the boiler room, but that’s been cleared out since. We had a leak between the annex portion of the building and the historic part of the courthouse.”
Brunette said the computerized climate controls and card reader system at the courthouse were also affected by the storm, along with two boilers going down with staff able to get one operational and the other requiring a service call as well as “some other things that were more minor in nature.”
“We’re documenting our time on the damage for (a) possible insurance claim,” she said.
Brunette also noted information technology staff came to the courthouse Monday evening and early Tuesday morning “to resolve the computer issues that we were experiencing as well.”
“I think we initially thought that the damage was going to be worse than what it was by the time we could see it in the light of day,” she said.
County Board chairman Dave Hintz said he appreciated the efforts of the buildings and grounds and information technology staff in responding to the problems caused by the storm.
“I think we did have an emergency (Monday) night,” Hintz said. “We survived and did very well (with) all hands on deck and we’re getting through this. It was well-handled, and one of the first things (information technology director) Jack (Flint) told me was, ‘No one got hurt,’ which is important.”
OTHER STORM TROUBLES
In addition to responding to courthouse, Wesle said Rhinelander firefighters also dealt with problems caused by several downed trees, a car stalled in water along Davenport Street under the railroad overpass and a woman who was walking around ending up being stuck in mud up to her knees and needing assistance to get free.
However, Wesle noted no one was seriously injured in those incidents.