Insurance to pay for Hilton Head library damage from broken fire sprinkler

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 24, 2013 

This file photo shows the library after it was damaged by a malfunctioing sprinkler system.


The cost of damage caused by a broken fire sprinkler to shelves, walls, carpet and thousands of books at the Hilton Head Island Branch of the Beaufort County Library last week will be covered by the county's insurer.

The dollar amount of the damage has not been determined yet since the insurance adjuster is still reviewing details with county risk manager Miriam Mitchell, county spokeswoman Joy Nelson said.

The broken sprinkler flooded the Friends of the Library bookshop, just inside the library's front entrance, Sept. 17. The nonprofit group, which helps support the library, had more than 3,500 books stored in the space. All of them were ruined.

The Hilton Head Friends of the Library provides the library with materials, programming and even furniture, said its president, Lynne Miller.

Sales from the bookstore make up 44 percent of the group's total revenue and are its largest single source of income -- bringing in about $34,000 of its $77,200 in projected revenue for the current budget year, Miller said.

With the bookstore closed, the group's ability to raise money for more library materials has been crippled: "If we can't get back up and running in two weeks, we could start to have a problem with the library's budget," Miller said.

Miller has been at the library every day since the flooding. Some shelves have been removed, but it's unclear when a contractor will begin renovating the shop, Miller said.

"We're just kind of in limbo now," she said. "We've talked to the insurance adjuster, and we're just waiting for the pieces to come together."

During the weekend, the Friends of the Library and Beaufort County Library had a table at the Italian Heritage Festival. About 70 people stopped by to tell Miller and branch director Mary Jo Berkes Berkes how worried they were about the damage last week, Miller said.

"The community was all concerned," Berkes added. "That was really nice to know people cared. It meant something to them."

The library's front entrance also flooded, soaking the carpet. Cleanup required 30 fans, five dehumidifiers and several water extractors from Servpro of Beaufort County. The fans and dehumidifiers stayed at the library until mid-day Friday, when the carpets were finally dry, Berkes said.

County insurance also will cover the cost of Servpro's cleanup, Nelson said.

Last week, deputy director of county facilities Nathan Klein said the sprinkler head came loose, spraying water and alerting the monitoring company, which notified the fire department.

"It's kind of a freak accident," he said last week.

The sprinkler has since been fixed and the system tested, Berkes said.

"They checked the water flow and everything passed," she said. She did not know exactly why the system failed. The sprinkler system is original to the building, which was built in 1998, according to Berkes.

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