Fire Does Damage to Michigan City Hall Building

BAY CITY, Mich. --

Officials and cleanup crews are still picking up the pieces at City Hall in Bay City following a fire in the attic on Tuesday.

While actual fire damage was confined to the fourth floor ceiling, there is heavy water damage throughout the 116-year-old structure. A result of that damage is the destroyed computer system that contains the city's vital records.

"We're concentrating on getting the phones working right now so we can start answering them," said Keith Miles, the man in charge of the City Hall computer system.

Miles has a big job ahead of him. The network was knocked out by the water fire crews used to put out the fire, as well as the firefighting sprinkler system. And right now, he said he's not sure if the water-logged equipment can be salvaged.

"Our new server used to be right here and the AS/400 was over there," said Miles as he moved through the soaked building. "That's down in Livonia getting dried out. Hopefully it still works. Once it's dried out it will be energized to find out if it's destroyed."

With the phones down, City Hall has no way to communicate with the outside world, and for Miles, that's the biggest challenge. "Our website and e-mail is down [too]," said Miles. "Tomorrow we'll have a better handle on how long it will take."

The city clerk said voters won't be affected in the upcoming elections because of quick thinking by the seven fire departments that showed up to help contain the blaze.

"The firemen were prompt in getting in," said Clerk Dana Muscott. "The voting machines were pulled out and the ballots were covered up. We'll resume issuing absentee ballots tomorrow, but we haven't picked out a location yet." Voting machines stored in the basement of the building have been taken to an inspector to check for damage.

"We just ask residents to be patient with us trying to get the system back up and running," said Miles. The damages at City Hall are still being assessed and officials said the building will remain closed for the rest of the week.

Miles said if the computer gear cannot be salvaged, replacement costs could total into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

All utility customers can pay bills by dropping checks or money orders in the drop box next to City Hall.

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