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Horton flood tries patience of faculty, students

By Tom Spencer, Staff Writer

Many of the faculty members in Horton have been working in exile since a burst water pipe flooded their offices.

Based on faculty guesses, the pipe burst in room 204 between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m. on Feb. 12.

The flooding damaged rooms 204, 207, 110, 111A, 111B, 112, 113, 120, 120A, 122A and the ceiling of the basement stairwell, according to Kathleen Jones, the project manager with UNH Facilities. UNH Facilities and Servpro (a fire damage and restoration service) are drying out the flooded areas, and Jones estimates that the work will be completed Feb. 27.

According to Jones, the cause of the flood was an open window in room 204, which caused a copper pipe to freeze, burst and leak when it thawed.

Jones said this is the third time an open window has caused a frozen pipe and a flood in Horton since the 2013-14 academic year. This is the first flood of the 2014-15 academic year.

Over a dozen ceiling tiles in room 111A were stained brown from the deluge.

“It wasn’t a drip, it was a faucet,” said James Farrell, professor of communication, describing the flow of water from the ceiling.

Next door, office 111B had been soaked as well. Even if it grew mold, the carpeting would not be able to be replaced without the risk of disturbing asbestos underneath, according to Farrell.

One of the biggest blows to Horton’s everyday operations was the flooding of room 112, which Farrell said was “normally the hub.” Brianna Smith, the academic and student services assistant, has been temporarily relocated to room 113 while Servpro employees work on repairing the flood damage in her original office.

The security of sensitive documents has been one of the many logistical nightmares that came with the flooding of Horton’s central office.

Farrell pointed out a green swivel chair outside room 109 in which he said someone had been appointed to guard the stacks of files that included students’ records, exams and other confidential material.

“The ongoing noise makes it difficult to write, and students who need to find my office hours must navigate locked doors and unfamiliar security personnel,” said Kevin Healey, the assistant professor of media studies.

There were green Servpro dryers and fans all along the hallway that were pointed at the walls and carpets. While not every faculty member had to be relocated, every faculty member felt the results of the repair work.

“My office has lost electricity three times due to the power demands of these machines [Servpro fans]; they blew the circuits,” Josh Lauer, associate professor of media studies, said. “I would count electricity as an essential work resource.”

Other members of the faculty agreed the problem had an impact on the whole Horton faculty.

“…When one of us gets disrupted, it disrupts us all,” said professor Robert Michael Jackson, the senior lecturer in the Communication Department. Like Lauer, Jackson was not displaced by the flood, but he was still disturbed. He also recalled how his computer and personal belongings had been soaked three times in past floods.

“The chaos, the displacement–the noise last Thursday was distracting and even painful in my ears … only slightly better than fingernails on a chalkboard for me,” Jackson said.

Part of the frustration of the faculty and staff comes from having experienced three floods since 2013.

In Farrell’s own office, there was residual mold from the last flood.

Farrell said that the mold had remained despite numerous shampoos. He had finally given up and bought rugs from Trash 2 Treasure to cover the green stains imbedded in the orange carpeting.

“I couldn’t stand the smell anymore,” Farrell said.

Healey recalled how he was teaching in Horton 114 the morning of the flood. There were five minutes till the end of class, when water began to drip onto his head.

“Rather than finish my thoughts and plow through, I ended the class early for the sake of safety,” Healey said.

“While my office has been untouched, the floods have been very disruptive – an unsafe environment, unfamiliar workers, confused students and distressed colleagues all make it difficult to teach, to write, and to remain calm and focused,” Healey said.

Follow Tom Spencer on Twitter at @TZPen.

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