CANTON: There is no good time for a roof to collapse.
But when a 21-foot by 21-foot section fell in the storage area of the Stark County Board of Elections about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, all employees had left for the day. No one was hurt.
“That’s the biggest blessing of this whole thing,” county Commissioner Thomas Bernabei said Thursday morning.
And the May 7 primary election is expected to have the lowest voter turnout of the four-year election cycle, said Jeff Matthews, Stark County’s elections director.
“If this had been a presidential election year, it would have been much, much worse,” he said.
Some of the county’s 1,400 electronic voting machines stored on the concrete floor are wet. They will be evaluated once they are dry, Bernabei and Matthews both said.
The building and contents are insured, said Bernabei, who could not immediately provide information on the deductible cost to the county.
Heavy rains that pounded the area are believed to have led to the collapse. Canton Fire Department officials said the problem might have been a clogged roof drain allowing water to accumulate on the flat roof, Matthews said.
The 7,920-square-foot building dates to 1937, according to county property records.
The county-owned structure was once a Sears farm supply store, Matthews said.
The collapse occurred on the Fourth Street Northeast side of the building that fronts 201 Third St. NE.
County records are stored in the basement of the building. Bernabei said records center Director John Runion covered boxes with tarps Wednesday. Many of the documents already are stored on microfilm.
On Thursday morning, one restoration crew toured the building while another handled the fans, dehumidifiers and portable lights brought in to deal with the waterlogged warehouse.
The damage to the roof underscores the need to find a new home for the Board of Elections, Bernabei said. He said the building was not on the list of those known to need roofing work, such as the jail and the recently acquired Frank T. Bow Federal Building.
Commissioners and an architect toured a possible new location for the elections board Wednesday.
The site is the county-owned Cohen-Joliet workshop, formerly operated by the Stark County Board of Developmental Disabilities, at 3525 Regent Ave. NE.
A preliminary estimate to relocate the elections office in Cohen-Joliet put the cost at $1.4 million.
Coincidentally, the developmental disabilities board is the source of the single countywide issue on the primary ballot: a 3.3-mill operating levy.
Nancy Molnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.