City councillors were forced to add a last minute item to the ongoing budget deliberations, after staff identified issues with the dry sprinkler system installed throughout city hall.

Brad Gilbert, director of recreation and facilities for the City of Merritt, explained to councillors that the dry sprinkler system installed throughout the building’s attic and above council chambers had been compromised at some point over the course of the winter.

In a dry pipe sprinkler system, pressurized air prevents water from entering the pipe system, until a valve is activated when a fire alarm is sounded, allowing water to flow through the system. The advantage of dry pipe systems is tied to winter weather — there is less risk of freezing water in the pipes compromising the system and causing leaks.

At an undetermined point, water entered the dry pipe system at city hall, said Gilbert. When temperatures dropped, the lingering water expanded as it froze, creating leaks throughout the system, he explained to the Herald.

City staff were tipped off by the air compressor, which was running constantly to keep up the air pressure in the dry sprinkler system — even as the leaks sprung in the pipes.

The cost of replacing the system was estimated at about $25,000 to $29,000, according to a report from city staff to council.

“So we have a higher use of electricity, a higher insurance cost, and the potential for insurance not covering anything if we do have a problem?” asked Coun. Linda Brown.

“Correct,” replied Gilbert.

Because part of the system that is in need of replacement runs directly above council chambers, Gilbert said there is a possibility that the replacement might affect the location of one council meeting — but he doesn’t see the job affecting the chamber for a long period of time.

Following a brief discussion on Wednesday (March 29), council unanimously approved a motion to set aside up to $35,000 to cover the cost of a sprinkler system replacement.