Linn County considers cost estimate to replace defective pipes

County could be stuck with repair costs

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County Supervisors could pursue a price estimate on a complete overhaul of defective hot water pipes in the county courthouse and jail.

The board on Wednesday discussed a quote for engineering services to get an estimate on what it will cost to replace Fiberglas heating pipes, which failed earlier this year and dumped more than 500 gallons of water and antifreeze in the two county buildings.

Estimates can be split into four projects for a total of $13,400, or combined into a single effort for $12,000, said Garth Fagerbakke, Linn County facilities director.

The contract would provide a cost estimate for the eventual replacement of any Fiberglas pipes in the structures.

The pipes in question were installed during the rebuilding process after the 2008 flood inundated both buildings. However, just a few years later in January of this year, pipe joints separated in several locations. As a result, a mixture of water and non-toxic antifreeze dumped into courtrooms, judges’ chambers and the rear portion of the jail. Both buildings lost heat for several hours during the incident.

A February investigation found that pipe joints failed, which could be attributed to many factors, including inadequate surface preparation on the pipes, improper quantity or inadequate curing of the adhesive or improper insertion where the pipes meet the joints.

Fagerbakke said county warranties on such projects are valid for no more than two years.

Supervisor Brent Oleson described the situation as frustrating, namely because it appears the county will be stuck with the cost of replacing those pipes.

“They didn’t put in a system that worked, but now there is no recourse for them to pay,” Oleson said.

The board will vote at a future meeting on the cost estimate contract.

The cost estimate would be used to bid out the next project — the eventual replacement of Fiberglas pipes, Fagerbakke said.

“We would remove the Fiberglas piping and replace it with a combination of steel and copper,” he said.

Preliminary cost estimates for pipe repairs provided by the county earlier this year estimate cleanup, staff time and furniture replacement in both county buildings to be roughly $121,500.

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