ELLSWORTH, Maine — A faulty backup battery that created a strong odor at the Hancock County Courthouse on Wednesday forced the closing of the Registry of Deeds and the courts.
The initial call came in just after 10 a.m., according to Deputy Fire Chief Richard Tupper of the Ellsworth Fire Department.
“There was a strong ammonia smell in the Registry of Deeds area,” Tupper said.
Firefighters evacuated the first floor of the building and checked the area for problems, he said. The evacuation process created enough air flow to disperse the odor and firefighters couldn’t locate the source of the odor.
“We didn’t detect anything on our meters,” Tupper said. “We couldn’t find anything.”
Courthouse employees went back to work, but later in the morning, the smell returned. Firefighters returned to the courthouse at about 11:30 a.m.
This time, Tupper said, firefighters were able to trace the source to a room in the Registry of Deeds. According to Tupper, the odor came from a faulty backup battery for one of the computer servers in the registry that was trying to recharge the main battery and overheated.
The IT staff at the courthouse removed the faulty battery. The odor hung around for a while and workers complained of headaches and respiratory irritation from the smell, Tupper said.
County officials decided to close the Registry of Deeds for the afternoon, according to County Clerk Cynthia DePregner. The odor also made its way to the second floor, which houses the county’s District and Superior Court offices, which also were closed for the afternoon.
DePregner said they expected to be open for business again today.