Kraig Troxell compares walking into the Sheriff’s Office administration building at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday to “something out of a movie.”
“There were things hanging from the ceiling [and] stuff strewn everywhere. It was surreal,” said Troxell, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office.
Three days after Tropical Storm Isabel brought rain and wind to Northern Virginia and parts of the East Coast, Loudoun was hit again with a rainstorm Monday night. The additional moisture flooded Goose Creek in places, caused several buildings to leak and left inches of water on some of the county’s roadways, most of them in Leesburg and to the west.
THE RAINFALL caused leaking in the roof of the Sheriff’s Office administration building, where some of the office’s functions have been housed for the past 11 years at 39 Catoctin Circle in Leesburg. The building’s skylights that a previous owner had installed after the building was built are a possible source, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The current owner of the building BEG II, LLC JKBG II, LLC of Loudoun was in the process of removing the skylights when the storm hit.
“Every time it rains, we get water somewhere,” said Sheriff Stephen Simpson. “The building was not made for skylights.”
The county planned to house the Sheriff’s Office at the building for another three to five years until a new public safety center is built on Sycolin Road in Leesburg. The Sheriff’s Office, the Adult Detention Center and the Department of Fire and Rescue Services, along with an expanded training area for Fire and Rescue, will be located in the center.
The county moved the Sheriff’s Office functions — administration, the Criminal Investigations Division, the records, property and evidence sections, and the Public Information Office — to a building at 21641 Ridgetop Circle in Sterling earlier this week. The county leased the space to open an Eastern Loudoun Mental Health Center in late October or early November and to provide additional space for the county Department of Health.
"That's going to be the home right now," said John Wells, deputy county administrator, adding that the county is assessing the best location for the Sheriff's Office administration building until the public safety center is built.
MOST OF THE DAMAGE to the building occurred in the area housing the Criminal Investigations Division, with some of the damage in the property and evidence area. Rain accumulated in the ceiling tiles, which became soft, broke apart and started dropping with some of the insulation onto the desks and floors, potentially damaging computers, equipment, desks and paperwork. Staff from the Department of Information Technology is assessing the extent of the damage to determine what can be salvageable.
“We can’t operate like this,” Simpson said. “It happens every time it rains. Enough is enough.”
The Criminal Investigations Division, which has a staff of 30 employees, experiences more leaking problems than do the functions housed in other areas of the building, which houses a total of 90 employees.
On Monday, some of the investigators who heard about the storm covered their equipment and files, as they had done for Isabel, Troxell said. “Covering our computers and important documents and other items had become somewhat routine in this office,” he said.
Troxell saw investigators Tuesday morning grab everything they could as the alarms continued, activated by the water. They were concerned about their casework and did not want it to become damaged or jeopardized, Troxell said. “A lot of them get personally involved in their cases. They put a lot of work into them,” he said. “These are cases they work on on a daily basis. Having water leaking down on them isn’t something they should be concerned about. They should be concerned about solving those cases, and they are.”
AFTER THE STORM, the investigators and the rest of the staff began packing up their offices to move to the Sterling location, which the county is leasing for a satellite office of the county’s Treasurer’s Office. A moving contractor helped move the equipment and desks on Monday, and the office reopened in Sterling on Tuesday.
“There’s too much at stake here, so we have to go somewhere else,” Simpson said.
Simpson plans to work with the county to find a location closer to Leesburg, where staff can access the courts and jail more easily and western Loudoun residents will have easier and closer access to the building. “I want to get us back into Leesburg until our new building is built,” he said.
An estimate of the damage to the equipment and other items is under county review.