Leaks Send Archives, Capitol Complex Scrambling

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Capitol Complex and the Colorado State Archives staff had an interesting Christmas Eve during our recent record-setting cold snap, when they were notified in the middle of the night that a heating coil was leaking and causing damage to important and historic documents on all four floors of its downtown Denver facility.

Capitol Complex Maintenance Manager Scott Villalva reported staff learned at approximately 4:00 a.m. that pipes were leaking on the first floor and into all three basement levels of the Centennial Building, located at 1313 Sherman Street.
Cap Complex staff jumped into action and addressed the leaks while Archives staff contacted the State’s restoration contractor to begin drying out the building. During this time, additional pipe breaks occurred.

At the same time, Archives staff began the task of lining up document conservators to address the thousands of affected boxes of important court, county, and state records from all three branches of government. 

Images showing State Archives files during a flood.

According to Division of Central Services Director Tom Montross, by noon on Christmas Eve, Archives staff along with the conservators, and even some unsolicited volunteers, were busy removing and preparing documents for the restoration process.

Conservators’ first task was to get documents out of the water and into freezer trucks in order to stop additional damage to the paper, and to begin the drying out process. From there, experts determine what can be salvaged and what needs restoration. It is estimated that complete restoration of all the documents and materials may take months, or even more than a year.

But, the efforts didn’t stop there. The Office of the State Architect needed to approve emergency expenditure to address the damage to the Centennial Building. The Office of the State Controller had to address the procurement of a conservator and other emergency services, in addition to Risk Management starting the process of evaluating the costs and insurance coverage that may come into play with an event of this magnitude.

Denver media learned of the leak and covered the event on both radio and television.

Kudos to DPA staff from multiple divisions who demonstrated exceptional dedication, quick action, and deep commitment to their jobs to address a potentially historic event.