North campus repairs disrupt student move
Tamonda Griffiths — Editor-in-Chief
Mere days before incoming and returning residential students were set to move into their dormitories in the North Campus Residence Complex, leaks were discovered inside of the walls, said Associate Vice President for Capital Budgeting & Facilities Operations Robert Sheeley.
“But there’s no way of knowing that,” Sheeley said, “because they’re on the interior [of the walls.]”
According to Sheeley, North Campus – built in 1986 – is over 30 years old, so the heating and ventilation units in the building are “old and starting to fail.”
The leaks, Sheeley said, were caused by the condensation created when hot air is transformed into cold air. The water is collected into the condensate pans; however, those pans were not draining properly, and the water was beginning to “bleed through.”
“North Campus has over 120 apartments and it was maybe ten that had an issue,” said Residence Life Director Rob DeMezzo. “It wasn’t the entire building. Less than ten percent of the building for certain.”
“And when that happens you have mold develop,” said Sheeley.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, most molds are harmless, but some may produce toxins or allergens which affect the respiratory system resulting in runny nose, cough, and congestion.
“There are no federal standards or recommendations for airborne concentrations of mold or mold spores,” said OSHA. “Scientific research on the relationship between mold exposures and health effects is ongoing.”
Sheeley said, because this issue was not discovered earlier in the summer when students were out of the dorms, he had to act quickly.
“We decided that the best thing to do is take out the sheet rock that was water damaged and, in some cases, had mold develop and have mold remediation done by an outside contractor,” said Sheeley.
DeMezzo said complete removal of the walls created 100 % certainty “there was no mold.”
Associate Director of Housing Operations Marvin Wilson said had the mold reached the carpet or more than a dime size had formed on any furniture they would have to be discarded.
“It was a very last-minute issue that popped up,” said DeMezzo.
According to DeMezzo, he and Wilson became aware of the issue the Friday before move-in day.
“Our summer really is spent really going through every room in every building to prepare for the academic year,” said Wilson. “So, it’s as a result of constantly going through where we just discover some issues.”
While Wilson worked on assessing every room for possible damages, DeMezzo said he worked closely with Sheeley’s office to do whatever was necessary to get students moved in.
“This was a case where we need to get the work done so the students could
move in and we figured– we’ll deal with the costs after,” said DeMezzo.
“I don’t think it will be significant because it was two days’ worth of work. It’s just more important to take care of the students first and we’ll worry about how much it costs later.”
Sheeley said he plans on bringing in an engineer to look at the A/C units and their rusted, obsolete brackets to avoid the problem in the future. Once the engineer is done, he said he should receive an estimate for the potential work; he also is waiting on a bill from the outside mold remediation contractor.
DeMezzo said he admits the walls need more work, and, more than likely, that work will take place over the winter break since most students do not want their rooms painted now.
Several more coats of tape compound or plaster must be applied to the resheet rocked walls as well as sanded between coats, Sheeley said, before the official painting of the walls can begin.
“But all that process takes time,” said Sheeley, “because you have to let the compound dry.”
According to Sheeley, the average drying time between coats is 24 hours.
Psychology major Serena Johnstone, a freshman, said she had signed up for her room in late July and was housed in Schwartz Hall, but then decided to move to North.
“Most of my friends live
in [North],” said Johnstone, “so I just kind of figured that would be helpful for just having people to study with.”
Johnstone said she was not made aware of the damage to her room until she arrived to move-in at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24.
“I was told that I was not gonna be allowed to move into my room because of the damage from the air conditioning leaking,” said Johnstone, “ and, it had leaked from the top floor, like 606, all the way down the entire building and every sixth room and I’m 506.”
She said the wall was ripped up by her window on one side of the room and by her suitemate’s bedroom as well.
A dehumidifier was put into the room temporarily, Johnstone said, but ended
up leaking too. Johnstone said she then requested to room with her friends but was told “there’s technically no vacancy in the room.” Instead, she said, she was put in a suite with an athlete, who at the time was out to practice with her team.
“My mom got someone who is the supervisor, I guess, or the hall director, and he came and looked at the room and kind of gave the okay that I could move in,” said Johnstone, “because I really did not feel comfortable just being put in this space with these people that I didn’t know, and I would’ve had to stay there ‘til Monday [Sept. 26] cause that’s supposedly when they were gonna fix the room by.”
Photo Credit: Serena Johnstone