State

June 10, 2014

Faulty water pump puts state building on ‘fire watch’

The Board of Equalization’s infamous headquarters has a new problem: A fire system pump isn’t working properly.

The Board of Equalization’s infamous headquarters has a new problem: A fire system pump isn’t working properly.

The secondary pump directs water up and down the 24-story tower, but the building’s sprinkler system would still work if a fire broke out, said Department of General Services spokesman Brian Ferguson.

The repairs could take up to several weeks if a key component has to be fabricated, Ferguson said Tuesday, but maintenance officials “seem to think they can get the part, off the shelf, in a week.”

Until the pump is fixed, however, the building remains on a “fire watch” that began Friday after the problem surfaced. The state fire marshal ordered the watch, which assigns a person to continuously walk the N Street tower on the lookout for fire hazards.

“This designated person is not allowed to perform any other work other than the fire watch duties,” a board memo told employees last Friday. “The person will walk each floor starting from the penthouse floor down to the 1st floor on a continual basis.”

The 22-year-old building has a history of leaky windows, toxic mold, faulty elevators, trace amounts of toxic substances, corroded waste water pipes and exterior glass panels that have popped off without warning. Taxpayers have spent more than $60 million on repairs so far, with future fixes costing up to $40 million. As crews move around the building, the state also faces tens of millions of dollars more to move employees out of repair zones, the board has said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are considering a bill that would authorize General Services to line up a new headquarters for the tax-collecting Board of Equalization. The measure’s author, Sacramento Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, says that the current building at N Street is too small and that ad hoc repairs to the property aren’t a long-term solution.

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