CHARLESTON – Some old courthouse records that dated back to 20 years ago were damaged by a water leak in the Kanawha County Courthouse that was discovered on Sept. 23.

There were 72 boxes of court records that were sent to Michigan for repair.

A courthouse employee that works in the sheriff's tax office discovered the water leak the morning of Sept. 23. It was a toilet in a restroom on the first floor of the courthouse directly above the record storeroom in the basement that caused the water damage.

Employees in the circuit clerk's office were among the county office workers that worked to remove the documents from the basement record storeroom after the leak was discovered. Courthouse staff worked late into the evening to separate the damaged files from the undamaged ones and readied them for shipment to a document restoration company in Livonia, Mich.

Because court files are to be kept in storage for a period of time, an administrative order had to be obtained from Chief Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib Jr. in order to remove the documents to have them sent to the repair company.

Courthouse staff assessed every box in the storage room to make sure there were no other damaged records, as there are many types of documents kept in the storage room. Staff then repackaged the undamaged documents before putting them back into the storage area.

Kanawha Circuit Clerk Cathy Gatson said the records were them placed on pallets to keep them off the floor in case the toilet leaks again. The fix is only temporary, as Gatson said she would be looking for an offsite storage place for the documents.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said the commission would cover the cost of restoring the damaged documents, which he estimated would cost between $15,000 and $20,000.

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