Barge Hall flood may cost at least $500,000 in damages, repair

Madalyn Banouvong, Staff Reporter

Recent windy, and snowy weather seems to be causing serious issues in multiple areas this winter. Here on campus, cold air froze over a pipe in the Barge Hall’s fire protection system, and the failed system started releasing enough water to flood the hall at around 1 a.m. on Feb 13. The system failure on the fourth floor flooded the floors of the building below.

Shane Scott, the associate vice president of campus planning and facilities management, is working firsthand with the technicalities of the flooding of Barge Hall and was able to recall the event in detail.

Because the flooding happened after-hours, the boiler house on campus received the information about the incident. The boiler house attends these types of calls, since they operate 24 hours a day. The emergency originally came through as a fire because of the system’s failure, but it was quickly realized to be the opposite. Police were able to respond and could tell that the building didn’t seem to be in danger of a fire, and they were able to figure out the source of the problem with the frozen fire system.

“Working with the city, they got the water shut off, they saved thousands of dollars of damages,” Scott said.

Director of Custodial and Grounds Sunny Bloxham was able to arrive in the early morning to organize the draining of the building. This was not an easy feat, as some of the rooms had two to three inches of freezing cold standing water. The teams worked from Saturday to Monday to extract as much water as they could. 

Other professionals such as contractors, industrial hygienists, and insurance adjusters also came in to investigate this issue. Contractors have helped to water map the building, which means they used instruments to see where the water went and track it exactly in order to measure the amount of wreckage.

“We did some rough estimates done quickly by my team,” Scott said. “But keep in mind that this is a historic building so there’s an incredible amount of unknowns because we have 1800s construction in some of this area. But our first shot is at least $500,000 dollars and we could go way above that or we could go below that. Though it is a significant amount of damage.”

Funding for the reconstruction of the building is being sought from emergency state dollars, and that case is actively being pursued. Barge Hall is on the national register of historic places, and with that being known, it is tough to tell exactly how much it will cost to repair the building in the state that it is in. 

When asked about the plans to rebuild, Scott said, “here at [CWU] we like to keep the historic nature to the greatest extent practical to the inside of the building, but it’s difficult.”

The National Historic Preservation Act only protects the outside structure of the building. A historic preservationist will most likely be necessary on the team to help reconstruct it accurately. CWU wants to keep Barge the way it looks now, but with the repair of the building, it’s unlikely that the inside will revert to its original state.