Roof collapses on Stark County Board of Elections in Canton

CANTON, Ohio - Part of the roof on the Stark County Board of Elections collapsed Wednesday night following heavy rains.

Fire officials say it appears the water wasn't draining properly on the roof and the wood timbers collapsed under the weight sending a large volume of water into the garage section of the BOE that is used to store the county's roughly 1,600 voting machines.

Workers in the front of the building, which houses the administrative side of the operations, heard the collapse and called for help. The fire department evacuated the building to make sure it was safe. No one was hurt.

"Nobody's going to be doing any work today," said Canton Fire Chief Akbar Bennett. "Absolutely open sky," he said speaking of the hole in the roof.

Tom Bernabei, President Stark County Board of Commissioners said there was still several inches of water in spots when he arrived an hour or two after the collapse.

"There was initially I'm told a large volume of water that fell onto the floor splashed and ran throughout the entire floor of the building," said Bernabei.

In addition the basement under the area is where a large number of county records are stored. Crews were busy late Wednesday night beginning the process of cleaning up the basement as well.

County officials say a large number of the affected records in the basement were backed up on microfilm.

Crews spent the overnight hours covering the hole in the roof and removing standing water.

"After that then the Board of Elections personnel who are familiar with the voting machines can take a look at them, move them around and ascertain which ones are damaged and which ones are not and we make a plan of attack from there," he said.

As for the May primary? "I think it's too early to tell with that," said Bernabei.

"(Thursday) they can make those kinds of decisions and probably over the next couple of days as to what machines are damaged if any and whether they can be replaced quickly or what they will do as far as the May election. I wouldn't anticipate in some way, shape or form the May election will go forward."

Bernabei says the Board of Elections office will be open Thursday.

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