A major waterline break inside the former Country Mart building in Arkansas City flooded the store Tuesday turned the parking lot into a lake. City worker Brandon Vardy said a broken fire line in the ceiling caused the leak.
“It froze and then when it thawed out it busted and flooded the place,” he said. “We shut the line off and it’s draining now.”
Building official Mike Bellis said the break occurred at a coupling, where one pipe joins another. He said the building interior was flooded with more than 10 inches of water before the break was discovered. Parts of the ceiling fell and floated into the parking lot as the draining water rushed outdoors.
The amount of damage to the building has not been determined. Bellis said that city crews were waiting for the remaining three inches of water inside the building to drain so they can get inside to inspect the damage.
The 840,000-square-foot building was constructed in 1973 and is currently valued at $413,780. It is owned by Rose Klausner of Kansas City, Kan. according to county property records.
The store closed in April of 2018 after 23 years of operation, and the building has remained vacant with boarded up windows. City spokesperson Andrew Lawson said Tuesday that he was not aware of anyone being interested in the location or any contact being made with the owner.
“I know it’s one of the locations that our consultant is shopping around to people,” he said. “I don’t know that there is any serious talk about it.”
Commissioner Jay Warren said that Ricky Hayes, of Economic Development Consulting Services, has shown the building along with several others to a few prospective clients, but no commitments had been made.
Warren said he is confident that someone will eventually want the location and will either remodel the building or put up a new structure.
“We’re about a 35,000 to 40,000 population area, and it’s going to attract some people,” he said. “It’s a wonderful building and a wonderful location.”