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Preventative maintenance needed

Issue date: 1/30/09 Section: Opinion
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This has been a brutal January for Cleveland. At press time on Wednesday night, the month-to-date snowfall was 40.2 inches, just 2.6 inches below the all-time record for Cleveland, set in January 1978. It had so far snowed 22 out of the 28 days in January, according to the National Weather Service.

On the morning of Friday, Jan. 16, temperatures were as low as minus 13 degrees F. It was the coldest day in Cleveland since Jan. 19, 1994, when the all-time record low of minus 20 degrees F was set.

That weekend, pipes froze and burst in first-year dorms Hitchcock, Cutler, Storrs, and Pierce, as well as in the Peter B. Lewis Building and Adelbert Hall.

Of course, no one could have predicted that the weather would wreak such havoc: the pipes had performed without incident for years.

But residents of the first-year dorms reported continued water leakage a full week after the burst, resulting in wet, slippery stairways. The water that had leaked outside had since turned into a solid sheet of ice. The dorms were cold and a strange smell had begun to permeate the buildings.

The flooding in the basement of PBL also inconvenienced students: the computer lab was closed, as was a main stairway leading up to the second floor. The brand new reception area was damaged.

The harsh weather, of course, is the underlying factor of the maintenance mess, but it's apparent that adequate precautions against winter weather have not been taken. We now know old pipes in residence halls and other campus buildings can't hold up against this weather, and a plan should be in place to have them all replaced within a few years. Protecting every pipe in every single building at every moment may not be possible, but it's certainly possible to eliminate known risks.

Other maintenance complaints on campus include poor insulation and heating, both in old buildings (such as Thwing East, where our office is located) and new (such as the Village at 115). Students are also concerned about the safety of pathways on campus, particularly icy bridges and stairways. These problems can be easily fixed, but it's nearly impossible to get someone to help.

The administration needs to make building maintenance a priority. In the future, it is important that enough money is budgeted for preventative maintenance and snow removal, as well as a staff large enough to handle the work.

Housing and tuition cost too much at this school for poor maintenance to be excusable. It should not have taken this long to clean up the mess in the first-year dorms. A decent standard of living and academic facilities uninterrupted by damage, as well as safe passage on campus, should be guaranteed.
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