For weeks now, the parking lot of the McKee Building at Western Carolina University has been cluttered with trucks and blockades as crews finish up repairs to the building from when it flooded in September.
Damage from the flood affected many parts of the building. The sewage ate away at sheetrock and ruined the flooring down to the concrete. Contractors are currently replacing the carpet, tiling and even some walls.
The windows on the bottom floor were replaced the week of Oct. 29, as they were broken to allow for proper ventilation.
Repairs will be completed within the next two weeks, said Joe Walker, associate vice chancellor of facilities management, as of the beginning of November.
The main sewer line leading from upper campus to McKee, the cause of the September flooding, became backed up as a result of a clog. Partially to blame for the clog were items such as pens, paper towels and a doorknob. To help prevent future clogs, a backup preventer will be installed.
The preventer allows water to only flow one way, decreasing the risk of back flow. It will also keep sewage from flooding McKee again. In order to install the preventer, Walker said water will need to be shut off for approximately two hours in McKee.
Work was done on two existing manholes to help the line, one being on the backside of Hoey Auditorium and the other in front of McKee. Bricks toward the bottom of the McKee manhole, approximately 16-18 feet deep, were repaired after they came loose. The trough placed at the bottom of manholes was also repaired. A manhole has been added between McKee and Hoey as well. Once work was completed, the lines were thoroughly flushed.
On a side note, emergency crews responded to a fire alarm in McKee around 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 23. Students were evacuated from McKee until crews could complete an inspection of the building.
WCU sophomore Natasha Swanson was in class when the alarm went off.
“We were working on an assignment when it went off. No one was really sure what was going on,” said Swanson.
“Some workers were fixing some floor tiles using a propane torch, and the fumes went up to the alarm panel,” said WCU Police Chief Ernie Hudson.
Despite the continued cleanup and the recent fire alarm incident, there is sunshine on the horizon. Parking restrictions have been lifted for faculty, and sidewalks are also open for foot traffic. Water was turned back on for the building on Sept. 27, and some classes were cleared to reoccupy their McKee classrooms on Oct. 5.
Currently only the south side of the ground floor facing the strip mall is open for classes. Students in classes past the double doors toward the former Speech and Hearing Clinic will have to wait two weeks longer for their classes to be moved back.
“I’d like to thank everyone for their patience during this,” said Walker.