Summer afternoon thunderstorms happen in August but the deluge that hit Fairfield County on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 1 surprised many people with extensive flash flooding and damage. The downpour also made an unwelcome entrance through the roof of Wilton’s Town Hall–leaking through several spots of the ceiling into the vault in the town clerk’s office and threatening some of the town’s most important records.
The leaks were caught on video (below), and you can hear first selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice point out the ceiling tiles that look like they’re bulging with water.
The vault contains the town’s most important documents–deeds, land records, birth and death certificates, and more. State law says the town has to keep paper copies of these records in an accessible way, and the cost to make digital copies of everything would be exorbitant.
Town officials have discussed for several weeks that the roof was in poor condition. At the June 19 meeting of the Police HQ/Town Campus Facility Building Committee, town facilities director Christopher Burney gave an assessment of the entire building, noting among many other issues that the majority of the roof has failed and needs to be replaced. But Wednesday’s leaks have made the roof replacement situation more critical.
Burney and Vanderslice met Thursday with the Campus Building Committee co-chairs, to discuss how to proceed. They’ve confirmed that at next Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Burney will ask the selectmen to authorize Vanderslice to enter into a contract to repair the roof over the vault as soon as possible. Vanderslice told GMW that it could cost between $30,000 and $50,000 to replace that section of roof.
Temporary repairs were made to the roof on Thursday afternoon, including draining the ceiling and covering the section. When the weather is dry enough the roof will be patched until September, which is when the repair can likely happen. (According to Vanderslice, most of the roofers they work with would be working on school building projects because buildings are empty, so the soonest someone could repair it would be after the school year starts in September.)
Of course, roof repair would be part of any larger project when it comes time to move forward on whatever construction the town will do on the overall Police/Town Hall Campus. Will the town spend what’s necessary to fix the vault roof, only to have it torn up and redone in the near future when work happens on the rest of Town Hall?
Officials say it’s not a waste to do the necessary repairs now. No matter how the building is eventually redesigned, the vault will likely stay put where it currently is, and what’s in it is too valuable to risk waiting any longer. A new roof come September will be built to last, although any cost incurred redoing it again down the road likely would be less than what it would cost to repair, duplicate or replace those town records.
“At this point we don’t expect the work would be ripped up,” Vanderslice says.