My NDSU office was in Minard Hall in 2009. Then there was a partial structural collapse of the building in late December 2009 on the side of the building that my department’s offices were located. We decided that we would move until construction was concluded. We expected to be out of the building for 12-18 months. We moved back into Minard Hall in mid-May when our suite of offices were completed, but while construction folks were still working in a couple dozen places in the building. In total, I spent three and half years in an office in Putnam Hall – an office I actually came to love based on the people in near proximity. Alas, our department faculty were separated, all my regular office furniture was in storage, and I never even unpacked all my boxes.
For all those years of construction the image I remember most clearly is the Meinecke-Johnson trailer parked near the building. Meinecke-Johnson is the construction company that came in with the lowest bid on the job (a cool 18 million) – indeed their bid was a full million dollars lower that the other bidders. As I understand it, that big a bid gap is quite unusual. But they were the lowest bidder and they got the job. And so there the company trailer sat day-in and day-out. The building was in a constant state of construction with workers here, there, and everywhere for over four years.
The renovations of Minard Hall are now said to be complete. The Meinecke-Johnson trailer is gone and the view of Minard Hall is no longer littered by construction materials, heavy equipment, and impromptu fences. I must say, it is a sight for sore eyes.
There is far more to the Minard Hall story than I am here to tell. There are still two ongoing lawsuits that seek to recover the additional $3 million spent. Meinicke-Johnson is one of the companies that is being sued by the university as it is believed that a 25 foot deep excavation that exposed the building’s foundation contributed to the collapse. I have to say, I always found it a bit unsettling that the university allowed a company that they were suing for lack of proper care to continue building one of the most heavily trafficked buildings on the campus. I think that it should be in every construction contract that structural failure is just cause for voiding the contract.
But whatever – it is done now and they have left the building – hallelujah!
Or so I thought until I went to Cheyenne’s Back-to-School night out at Sheyenne High School. The school is on 40th close to Veteran’s Boulevard. The school property is littered with construction materials, heavy equipment, and impromptu fences -sounds familiar doesn’t it?
My heart sank when I saw the trailer again. But I must say, the scene was so familiar that I was not surprised. There was construction material laying around everywhere and a hundred different ways students, staff, and folks visiting the school could get injured. It really bothered me. I love my West Fargo School District like no other, but I wanted to grab folks at the school by the shoulders and say, “What are you thinking?” I imagine they thought this work would be done before school started. Yeah – ask NDSU folks how many times they were given prospective dates of completion. Hopefully, at least the most dangerous mess will be cleaned up before the first day of school.
Unfortunately, it is clear that the work will not be complete for many months. Indeed, I wonder if it will be completed before the spring. Yippee – I will get to see the Meinecke-Johnson trailer again for who knows how long. That should trigger every unpleasant Minard Hall construction memory I have on a five day a week basis.
I was told by school staff that there would be no construction during school hours. At least there is that. But make no mistake, if they start excavating a big hole near the school building (even if it is in the evening or on weekends) I do believe I am going to have knock on that trailer door and have some words with someone. And I am pretty sure after hearing parents comments tonight that I won’t be alone.
Day one thousand five hundred and five of the new forty – obla di obla da