HAVERHILL — When the city received $1.2 million from the state for downtown projects last year, local leaders said repairs to the aging Merrimack Street parking deck would be a priority.
The city spent nearly $500,000 of that money to install a new sprinkler system at the deck.
But the system has malfunctioned and needs repairs.
During a recent cold spell, water inside the sprinkler’s pipes froze, causing some of them to burst, said David Van Dam, Mayor James Fiorentini’s chief of staff. That caused $13,000 worth of damage, but the city won’t have to pay for it, Van Dam said.
The company that installed the system, Carlysle Engineering Inc. of Boston, is paying for the repairs, he said.
The sprinkler system is located in the ceiling of the lower level of the deck. The deck also has an uncovered upper level.
Van Dam said the “dry’’ sprinkler system is supposed to have no water in its pipes during winter. If fire broke out in the parking deck, sprinkler heads would register the heat, allowing water to be pumped into the pipes, he said.
The company prepared the system for winter prior to the arrival of low temperatures, but somehow water remained in some pipes, leaving them not properly weatherized, Van Dam said.
Van Dam said that about a month ago, when the region was hit with near-zero temperatures, pipes in several areas of the sprinkler system burst. He said the damage was discovered and the company was notified. He said repairs began a few weeks ago and should be completed within a week or so.
“It was a rare occurrence and the company that installed the system identified that and is making repairs at no cost to the city,” he said.
He said that while work is taking place, parking is restricted in just those areas. Van Dam said the Fire Department was told what areas of the system would be inoperative while repairs are made.
City Councilor Michael McGonagle, who has an office directly across from the parking garage, said the repairs have virtually gone unnoticed and have likely impacted few drivers who park in the deck.
Under the city’s paid-parking plan, put into effect downtown in 2012, drivers must pay to park at the Merrimack Street deck. The revenue is intended to help pay for better cleaning and maintenance of the deck. Previously, parking there was free.
McGonagle, chairman of the city’s Public Safety Committee, said he was pleased that the company made repairs to the sprinkler system at no cost to the city.
“It seems like the contractor is standing by their work,” he said.
The sprinkler system was installed last summer under a $1.2 million MassWorks grant that Haverhill’s legislative delegation, including state Rep. Brian Dempsey, helped get. The grant also paid for other improvements to the aging parking deck to make it safer for the public to use.
Those improvements included new lighting, new electrical wiring, and new ventilation fans to replace inoperative ones. The old fans are hidden behind rusted metal grates and have not worked in years, officials said.
Security cameras were installed as well, allowing police to monitor what’s happening in the garage.
Drivers who park in the lower level of the deck had previously endured poor lighting and the nauseating odor of vehicle exhaust fumes. There were concerns for public safety as well because the 32-year-old deck’s rusted sprinkler system had not worked in years.
Van Dam said the U.S. Post Office in Haverhill pays the city to use the parking deck during storms, when the post office lot is being cleared of snow. He said postal vehicles often park there overnight during storms.
Van Dam said police park some of their department’s cars in the parking deck during storms as well, so they can avoid having to dig out their vehicles.
“It saves them time and allows their lot to be plowed,” he said.
Van Dam said the grant will also allow the city to replace about 50 street lights on Merrimack Street with new and more energy-efficient ones.
“We are still researching the cost and types of lights that will be best,” he said.
The grant also paid for other improvements to that area of downtown, including the creation of sidewalk bump-outs for outdoor dining and planting flowers in the median strip along Main Street near Pentucket Bank and Central Plaza.