Newport News City Hall is closed to the public and employees Tuesday, and possibly longer, due to “significant” water damage to the building’s upper floors caused by an issue with its HVAC system.
A valve froze in the cooling tower on top of the building, which is part of its HVAC system, causing it to get stuck, said Sarah Bowman, a spokesperson for the city. The valve was unable to stop the water in the cooling tower from rising, so water flowed down through the “top several floors” of the building, Bowman said.
Water affected the tenth floor — where the mayor’s office is located — the ninth and the eighth.
“When the water kept flowing it went into the floor drain and water ended up getting frozen on the floor drain and then the remaining water couldn’t flow fast enough through the drain so it filled up that space and went out the door into an equipment area and then began to flow into the floors below,” Bowman said.
It’s unclear how long the building, located at 2400 Washington Ave, will remain closed. Bowman said no city services will be affected as a result of the flooding due to employees’ adaptations for remote work since the pandemic began. City Hall is the only building affected by this issue.
Residents who need city services can contact Newport News 311 by calling 757-933-2311.
City employees discovered the damage at about 5 am Tuesday morning and officials are still assessing the extent of the damage, according to Bowman, but they confirmed the water affected “offices and equipment.”
“Our goal is to get (city employees) in there as soon as we can but right now we’re still assessing the damage,” she said.
Among the spaces affected in the building was the office of outgoing Mayor McKinley L. Price. Price, now in the last days of his time as mayor after 12 years in the position, is out of town visiting family for the holidays so his work will not be impacted, according to Bowman.
“It’s actually taking place at a good time of year where it’s a quiet week,” Bowman said.
All city employees who were scheduled to go into work at City Hall Tuesday were told to telework or ask their supervisor for instructions, the city said in a statement.
Gavin Stone, 757-712-4806, [email protected]