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Germanna to begin quake repairs in April

By PAMELA GOULD

Repairs on the earthquake-damaged academic building at Germanna Community College’s Spotsylvania campus will begin in April, just as a new academic building there is being finished.

The magnitude-5.8 quake on Aug. 23 did significant structural damage to the V. Earl Dickinson Building. It is expected to be ready for use by January for the spring 2013 semester.

The cost for repairs is between $1.8 million and $2.2 million, but the total impact of the quake could be as much as $3.5 million when associated costs such as off-site leases, and architectural and engineering work are added, GCC President David Sam said.

All but a $5,000 deductible will be covered by the state’s insurance, college spokesman Mike Zitz said. The college hopes the Federal Emergency Management Agency will pick up that amount.

The quake occurred on the second day of the fall 2011 semester, sending students scurrying out of the three-story Dickinson building at the campus off the U.S. 17 Bypass near Massaponax. It was the only building on Germanna’s two campuses and two centers to be badly damaged.

College officials had to come up with a plan for handling classes that met in Dickinson.

Classes resumed for nursing students on the Locust Grove campus on Aug. 30. All other students resumed Sept. 6, after what students dubbed “quake break.”

College administrators had to determine how to address the 321 classes that were to have been held in Dickinson, which is the Spotsylvania campus’s main academic building.

Some of the 4,400 students signed up for those classes went to other locations, and others shifted to a combination of classroom and online instruction.

Staff members were relocated from the Dickinson building to whatever space could be found. Some moved their belongings into temporary rental storage pods.

The biggest expense was the cost of leasing space at eight locations, which totaled $446,464. Architectural and engineering studies cost another $305,158, according to preliminary figures provided by the college.

NEW ACADEMIC BUILDING

The college’s third academic building on the Spotsylvania campus is a three-story, 50,000-square-foot structure with science and engineering labs and a multistory library.

The $25.4 million building is expected to be completed by the end of March.

By the end of April, Sam hopes to have all equipment and furniture in place and for staff to start moving in. The goal is to hold classes there for the summer semester beginning in mid-May.

A three-story parking deck will be built behind the new building and should be finished by the fall semester.

The building will house four biology labs and two labs each for engineering, chemistry and physics.

A portion of the third story has an outdoor space with a garden that is to be used for science studies.

The building also will have a two-story library with a glass front aimed at providing a welcoming environment rather than the feel of a sterile industrial building.

“I think students, faculty and staff are pretty excited about it,” Sam said.

DICKINSON REPAIRS

The Dickinson building had damage to all three of its stairwells and a crack on the first floor that runs from floor to ceiling.

However, the Workforce Development and Technology Building nearby was mostly undamaged. The third academic building, which was under construction when the quake rumbled, also was undamaged.

The Dickinson building was built to 1997 standards, the year it opened. The other two are built to newer standards.

Engineers have questioned whether the position of the buildings may have played a role in the impact. The Dickinson building is situated in a north–south alignment. The other two sit on east–west alignments.

Repairs to the Dickinson building will include installation of steel supports that will run vertically and diagonally to prevent similar quake damage, Sam said.

“It will be much stronger and safer than it was,” he said of the building.

Bringing the building up to today’s international building codes would have required demolishing the structure, a cost Sam said would have been prohibitive.

‘BETTER THAN EVER’

Sam said it appears the quake has impacted enrollment for this semester, making it the first time in years the number of students hasn’t grown.

Population growth in the area has leveled off, he said, and improvement in the state and national economy would slow the number of people seeking retraining or skill improvements. But he said the environment on the Spotsylvania campus can’t be overlooked.

“One of the keys to student success is to feel connected to people,” Sam said.

Since August, staff members have been sharing offices, leaving little space for them to meet with students.

And students have had to eat in their cars since there has been nowhere to sit to socialize or study together.

All of that will soon change as students begin moving into the third academic building in May and then gradually into the Dickinson building starting this fall.

Soon, they will also have outdoor areas designed to enhance interaction. Broad walkways that connect the three buildings are being installed, and they have concrete benches and outdoor ports for electronic devices.

Once repairs to Dickinson are finished—hopefully by the end of August—workers will begin renovations that had been scheduled before the earthquake.

Those will include turning the old library into an expanded bookstore and improving the space for student activities.

When the Dickinson project is completely finished in January, Sam hopes students and staff will be pleased with the repairs and remodeling.

“The building should be better than ever on both counts,” he said.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

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