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Burst pipe damages Senate offices

Government leak Sen. Victor Soltero, D-29, inspects his Senate office after it was flooded out by a broken water pipe. The card on the wall says: Area evacuated. Do not enter. Photo by Bill Coates

A water pipe burst in the Arizona Senate building over the weekend, flooding two offices and slightly damaging two other rooms, as well as prompting talk of tearing down the structures that house both legislative chambers to erect new ones.
Senators Victor Soltero and Richard Miranda were forced to relocate Monday from their third floor offices, which were damaged by water.
The leak also damaged Senate President Tim Bee’s office, the Senate floor and a hearing room.
Hardest hit was Miranda’s office, which still had about an inch of water this morning, Capitol staffers said.
People were working fast to restore the session floor in time for the body’s convening at 11:30 this morning. The president’s and staffers’ chairs had been covered with plastic and a container stood nearby to catch water continued to drip from the left side of the ceiling.
“It appears at this time we’re going to be able to conduct business on the Senate floor today. But we’re not certain whether or not we’re going to have the electronics working,” Bee said after surveying the damage.
Sen. Robert Blendu, R-12, said the water leak might be the best case that could be made for tearing down the two buildings.
“It’s old, it’s dilapidated, and we’re pouring money down the rat hole,” Blendu said. A flood also severely damaged the basement two years ago.
Those affected, Miranda and Soltero, couldn’t agree more.
Miranda, who lost some furniture because of the leak, said he is also worried about some paintings and prints.
“I think it’s time we start talking about replacing this building,” Miranda told his colleagues during today’s session.
The senator said he worries about how such a move might be perceived by the public. But he pointed out that such incidents leave members of the Legislature unable to function.
His point prompted more talk of erecting a new building or carrying out a major renovation.
Sen. Paula Aboud, D-28, said while at it, the body might also want to consider covered parking for legislators.
But Sen. Ron Gould, R-3, said he would definitely vote against a new Senate building.
“If government has outgrown its current facilities, maybe we need to work on scaling down the size of government,” he said, drawing chuckles from the crowd.
The Senate and House of Representatives buildings were built in the 1960s. Bee said a cursory survey of the Senate’s water valves made today showed they were rusting, ready to burst anytime.
When Blendu mentioned that designs for a new building exist, Bee said he would like to see them.
“I think President Bee has got it exactly right. We keep spending our money over and over on a building that is not worth it,” the Senate President pro-tempore said. “You know, most homeowners, contractors and other buildings owners would not be doing this. And I think it’s time for us to start that conversation.”
What needs to be done is bring in designers and contractors and have them take a look at the House and Senate edifices, Blendu said.
“I don’t where the planning was in the beginning,” he said. “We are charged with building, preserving and passing on to future generations a government that is going to work for them, and think about what that future is going to be. I think it’s time for us to start thinking about it.”
The Senate staff is thinking of temporarily housing Soltero and Miranda in the conference rooms on the third floor. Affected staff can also occupy available cubicles in the research unit.
A staff member said it might take a week before the offices heavily damaged by the leak can be restored.
“It’s pretty bad,” one said. “There’s about an inch of water in Miranda’s room.”
Bee was concerned about the carpet on the session floor, which he said was custom made for the Senate.
“Basically what happened is that one of the valves rusted out and blew,” Bee said. “And so water ran down from the ceiling to the third floor, damaging pretty severely two of the senators’ offices and it came through the president’s office,” Bee said. “There was minimal damage on the floor of the body, and there was some water leaking to the first floor.”
Senate Hearing Room 1 had to be closed as well.
“I’m going to take a look at the entire system on the ceiling and see what else needs to be done. It appears the equipment is original and the buildings were built in the 1960s,” Bee said.

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