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Water pipe breaks in courthouse
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A pipe broke Sunday at the Newton County Judicial Center, damaging portions of the first floor, including the juvenile, magistrate and probate courtrooms and offices.

The cost of the water damage was not known Monday, though insurance was expected to cover the majority of costs, said Probate Judge Henry Baker, noting that no records were damaged. The moisture is expected to be absorbed during the next two to three days, while full repairs, including replacing carpet and wooden baseboards, will likely take a couple of weeks, Baker said.

Juvenile, magistrate and probate courts will have to temporarily move trial hearings from the two first floor courtrooms, Baker said. Officials hadn't reached a final decision Monday on the relocation plan, though there are multiple options, including Superior Court courtrooms, when available, the jury impaneling room, the Newton County Administration Building and even the Historic Courthouse, Baker said.

The break is believed to have occurred in the juvenile court bathroom. The juvenile court offices suffered the most damage and had to be vacated Monday while crews worked to clean up the water damage.

An assistant district attorney found the break when she came in Sunday to get paperwork and saw water flowing out from under the first floor doors. A county worker then came over and cut the water off and work began later to absorb the water.

Baker also visited the building Sunday to make sure no records had been damaged. He said the water was nearly ankle high in the juvenile court, but only there was only an inch or so of water in the probate court area.

"We're lucky someone came in Sunday to get paperwork," Baker said. "Pipes always seem to break on the weekend."

Most recent probate records are stored at least a couple of inches off the ground, which protected them, Baker said. Some very old state records were kept in boxes, but the boxes only got damp and no records were significantly affected.

The carpet will likely have to be replaced in some areas and the courtrooms' floor and baseboards will have to be repaired or replaced, Baker said.

"We're not sure about the wiring, because some of it is under the floor," Baker said. "But it's really more of an inconvenience than anything else...They say repairs should be done within a month, but you never know what you're going to run into."

Juvenile, magistrate and probate courts hold are in session multiple days each week, as is the Superior Court, which may make it difficult to coordinate the use of courtrooms.

While magistrate and probate court workers should be able to remain in the office, juvenile court members have to temporarily relocate to the administration building or another office, Baker said.