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Water pipe breaks in judicial center
First floor courtrooms damaged, juvenile court offices moved
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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 yet known, though the county's insurance provider was on site Tuesday determining restoration costs, said County Manager John Middleton, who added no timeline for repairs has yet been determined. He said insurance is expected to cover all the restoration costs, and the county will only pay its $10,000 insurance deductible.

One of the chief concerns was whether records were damaged. Probate Judge Henry Baker said all records survived. The moisture is expected to be absorbed during the next couple of days, while full repairs, including replacing carpet and wooden baseboards, will likely take two to four weeks, Baker said.

Juvenile, magistrate and probate courts will have to temporarily move trial cases and hearings from the first floor courtrooms. Baker said Tuesday that court cases and hearings will be moved to Superior Court courtrooms; when available, the jury impaneling room, the Newton County Administration Building and even the Historic Courthouse.

The break is believed to have occurred in the juvenile court area. The juvenile court offices suffered the most damage and have been vacated while crews worked to clean up the water damage. Juvenile court employees have been moved temporarily to the administration building. For more information, call (770) 784-2060; hit zero to speak to the operator.

For more information about probate court call (770) 784-2045 and for magistrate court call (770) 784-2050. Baker said signs have been placed at the entrance to direct people to the second floor courtrooms. Bailiffs will also be able to direct people to the appropriate courtroom.

An assistant district attorney discovered 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 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.

The cleanup effort was handled by ServiceMaster by Lovejoy, based out of Conyers, which was the first company to respond to the county's calls for support, Middleton said.