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Opening Delayed - Owners of the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Morgantown, West Virginia
 Offering a $10,000 Reward Seeking  Arrest of Vandals Who Lopped off
 Sprinkler Heads Releasing 112,500 Gallons of Water

By Kathy Plum, The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

February 11, 2009 - ANYONE WITH information about the vandalism at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott on Lewis Drive at University Town Centre is asked to call Granville Police at 598-0025 or MECCA at 599-6382.

The owners of the Fairfield Inn & Suites at University Town Centre are offering a $10,000 reward for anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of vandals who lopped off sprinkler heads over the weekend, releasing 112,500 gallons of water inside the hotel.

The 95-unit hotel, part of the Marriott chain, was scheduled to open by May 1, but a spokeswoman for Granville Hospitality Group, the owner, said Tuesday that the opening will now be two to four weeks later to allow for cleanup.

The company's insurance agents are still compiling an estimate of the damages, she said.

"We won't know a total until the end of the week," the spokeswoman said.

The damage was discovered by Morgantown Utility Board. MUB has instruments that monitor water pumps and tanks, and the instruments indicated that the water tank at Chaplin Hill, by Mylan Park, had dropped 5 feet in less than four hours.

The tank holds 24 feet of water. MUB was able to pinpoint where the large amount of water was going and sent crews to the Town Centre. "We responded, expecting to find a leak in our system, and our workers were sharp enough to recognize it was inside the hotel," said Tim Ball, assistant general manager and chief engineer for MUB. The utility workers turned off the water to the hotel and called the contractor. Ball computed that 112,500 gallons of water -- 473 gallons per minute -- flooded the hotel in the 3 hours and 58 minutes leading up to the discovery of the water flow at 5:04 p.m. Saturday. In comparison, it takes about 660,000 gallons to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Granville Police were notified at 10:30 p.m. Saturday of the incident. Granville Police Chief Ron Snyder said there were several inches of water inside when police arrived. "We went in and vandals had broken the sprinkler heads off, mainly on the second and fourth floors, and charged the water lines," Snyder said.

"You'd have to know what you were doing," Snyder said, because the machinery to charge the system and turn on the water is sophisticated.

Because the sprinklers weren't on line yet, they were not tied to an alarm system that would have alerted firefighters when they were activated, he said.

There were no security guards at the hotel, both Snyder and the owners' spokeswoman said.

"We patrol pretty heavily there, and we have caught a couple vandals there," Snyder said.

In late December, Granville Police interrupted thieves who had broken into construction trailers at the hotel work site and the hotel. They pursued the men and recovered tools and other items stolen at the site, but have not charged anyone yet.

The hotel owners are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the crime. Granville Police Detective Ken Fike is the investigating officer.


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