WSU prepared if dormitory were condemned

Last Sunday, Sarah Woodruff and about 226 other students were told they had three days to find new housing and a week to move out of their dormitories at Southern Utah University.

Southern Utah University students pack their belongings in Juniper Hall.

“I was so shocked,” Woodruff said, formerly a Juniper Hall resident. “I didn’t know what I was going to do or where I was going to go.”

Three days later, she still didn’t.

“I think I have found something, but it’s at a point where it might fall through, and then I’ve got nowhere to go,” she said, adding that she had not attended classes since hearing the news because she was busy packing and looking for an alternative.

SUU administrators decided to evacuate Juniper Hall mid-semester after they determined problems with the building’s boiler were irreparable. Their plan for relocating displaced students was a mixture of asking faculty to open their homes, asking students to accept more roommates and directing students to off-campus housing. It’s a plan that was never needed, because SUU knew the building had serious problems before fall semester started, Woodruff said.

Woodruff’s chaotic evacuation from the Juniper Hall dormitory at SUU isn’t likely to be repeated at Weber State University’s own dormitory, which is also nearly a half century old, WSU administrators say.

About four years ago, two boilers in two separate dormitories failed, prompting WSU to make contingency plans for its students if Promontory Tower becomes unusable, said Brett Perozzi, associate vice president for student affairs. An unlikely event, Perozzi said, because the university has spent thousands of dollars in recent years to upkeep the building’s two boilers, one of which is a backup if the other fails, Perozzi said.

The contingency plan is to move students into hotels and local apartments with which WSU has already made agreements if Promontory Tower were condemned. Students would live there through the end of the semester in which they were evacuated and then be asked to find alternative housing between semesters. The plan would also include providing some food for students and a shuttle system to move students to and from campus, Perozzi said.

“I hope not to enact that kind of a plan because it’s an inconvenience for everybody,” Perozzi said. “It would be an expensive endeavor.”

Meanwhile, the first plan is to keep Promontory Tower functioning until it is replaced in fall 2013.

“We can’t risk displacing students,” Perozzi said. “It’s hard to when you’re looking at investing $10,000 in a building that you know is going to be gone, but we’ve done it on a couple of occasions, actually, so that we make sure we’re able to extend the life of the building long enough so that we don’t have to displace students.”

Perozzi said his office has talked about the SUU situation this week.

“We’re aware of it. We’ve been talking about it,” Perozzi said. “It just so happens that we’re in a little bit better shape than they are. I mean, it’s not their fault or anything; it’s just our infrastructure is holding up pretty well. In terms of their emergency plan, I think we’re probably a little ahead in the planning.”