- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The District headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Justice, and the National Archives will all remain closed through the weekend because of flood damage, but the IRS says the “tax system continues to operate.”

The headquarters of the agencies remain closed after torrential rain that began last weekend knocked out electrical and air-conditioning systems. None of the departments know when their main buildings will reopen, but departmental work is continuing at other locations.

“Our agency is very decentralized, and we’re continuing our tax administration,” IRS spokesman Terry L. Lemons said yesterday in an interview from his Northern Virginia home. He noted that of the 100,000 employees across the country, only 8,000 live in the Washington metropolitan area.

Mr. Lemons said the IRS is currently making arrangements with the 2,400 staffers employed at the 111 Constitution Ave. headquarters to find them other places to work.

“It’s like a sauna in there now, and the building will not be habitable until the electricity is turned back on. We’re not sure when it will be able to reopen,” said Mr. Lemons.

In the meantime, he said, many employees with laptops are able to work from home.

“The IRS has 12 other office sites throughout D.C., Maryland and Virginia, so some employees are going to those locations,” Mr. Lemons said.

“Taxpayers can take solace in the fact that their money is being spent, even though we would rather that they not spend it. We can only hope they are spending it wisely,” Sam Batkins, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, said yesterday of the IRS efforts.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said less than 2 percent of the Justice’s 120,000-person work force operates out of its main building at Ninth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. The nearly 2,000 affected by the flooding “are now working out of designated alternate locations,” he said in a statement.

“It is unclear at this time when the building will be functional. In the meantime, I am confident that the department will continue to execute all of our important responsibilities,” Mr. Gonzalez said.

The National Archives, at 700 Pennsylvania Ave., lost power when water flooding the building’s William G. McGowan Theater “poured into the sub-basement” and covered a transformer, according to spokeswoman Laura Diachenko. She is certain the building will remain closed at least through Tuesday.

The Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence are kept in protective cases and were not damaged by the flood. Miss Diachenko said the Archives still plans the traditional July Fourth ceremonies on its steps on Constitution Avenue from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., even though the building will not be open.

“Three hundred people work in that building, and 250 of them can’t work,” said Miss Diachenko. She said about 50 staffers are temporarily working in Archives offices in College Park.

“They have pumped out all of the water and are using industrial dehumidifiers to dry out the building. We hope to have it up and running as soon as possible,” she said, although she was unable to provide a definitive date.

Miss Diachenko said the Archives is not trying to find temporary work locations for those flooded out of their jobs. “We can’t relocate. All our records are safe and sound” in the main building, she said.

Five hot-air generators were stationed yesterday in front of a building used by the Environmental Protection Agency at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, which has also been closed. Repair crews said it was swamped with 4 feet of water Monday, but now most of the water is gone.

Long yellow tubes blowing hot air snaked from the generators, across the sidewalk, and into the windows and doors of the building’s first floor.

“Right now, we’re in the process of dragging out the contents, and once we do that, it will go pretty fast,” said Joe Woll of Begal Enterprises, Inc., which is repairing the water damage in the EPA’s Ariel Rios Building.

According to Mike McGill, spokesman for the General Services Administration, the sbuilding is expected to reopen today.

However, William Begal, owner of the contracting firm, said yesterday that hot air would continue to be pumped into the EPA building for the next few days.

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