As slope settles near gym, concerns raised about insurance claims, budget
After the hillside abutting the gym parking lot slid on Jan. 6, cutting off power and water to five buildings, UCC campus, students, staff and community members started raising many questions about possible outcomes.
In a UCC Board of Education special session broadcast on Facebook, Director of Facilities and Security Jess Miller explained the landslip and the college’s reaction.
Miller said that his team “immediately jumped into processes; first thing we did was get an engineer on board; we needed someone to test the site, have a design made and survey the property.”
UCC President Debra Thatcher says, “We currently have an engineer working on the project who will come up with a design that is required to make a repair, and based on that design, an estimate will be made on the price.”
The cost to repair the hill is unknown at this time. “Once a design is made, I can put together some budgetary numbers that I can work off of,” says Miller.
Along with an engineer, Western Testing, a local firm, was brought in to take a test on the soil. Miller also reached out to Knife River for information on how to reconstruct the area. Both Miller and Knife River agreed that all the soil tests and reviews needed to come back before they started construction in the area.
Pacific Power also helped to fix the immediate problem of water and power to the surrounding buildings. “Pacific Power was onsite immediately and helped us get temporary power setup,” Miller says. Five of the buildings that lost power were supported by the broken power line.
A water line was also broken, and the pump which brings water up to buildings lost power; however, the campus is now fully functional, having water and power to every building.
Because there is only temporary power to the affected buildings now on the west side of campus, Pacific Power will be coming back to put in a new “zing cabinet, transformer and meter base. We would be responsible for the meter base and bringing the power into the meter base from our different locations, but the rest of that they would be responsible for,” Miller says. “They will replace the old system that fails on a regular basis with a new one. It is kind of a great opportunity to get some new utilities at the same time.”
Hoping to continue a quick recovery, Miller says, “Moving forward, (we want) to bring the contractors on board to get that process started as early as possible.”
Although looking ahead, Miller recognizes that this construction will most likely not finish until spring. “We want to make sure that come early spring we can really start looking at breaking ground so we can monitor what is going on with groundwater so we are not making too big a mess,” Miller says. “But at the same time we are getting it done early enough to where folks are still waiting to go to work so we can take advantage of some opportunities there in cost savings.”
Board members David Littlejohn and Steve Loosley gave a special thanks to Miller and his team on behalf of the UCC Board of Education.
Chief Financial Officer Natalya Brown proposed a request that the Board of Education allow the college to declare a state of emergency related to the landslip. “This resolution will allow the college to take necessary steps with the required repairs and mitigate the risk of injury or accidents to the college of student staff and college visitors,” Brown said in the board meeting.
“The emergency declaration allows us to expedite some processes that take a long time otherwise. Some of them are related to purchasing processes; however, in no way does it remove responsibility of the college to do the proper bidding review of the cost. We still will be doing our due diligence processes; it also allows us to seek other aid if necessary for example FEMA or state aid thus will greatly help us with seeking additional funds if necessary,” Brown says.
UCC made an insurance claim regarding the landslip, but without luck so far. “Typically the insurance covers buildings and people; it does not cover land and parking lots,” Thatcher says. Because the insurance claim has not been answered, there is no way of knowing yet if insurance will cover it.
“There are no budget cuts associated with the landslip,” Thatcher says. “We actually have a contingency fund. The college maintains a little bit of savings just in case something happens. If we end up not having any other sources to pay for it, we go to the board, and we get approval to use those funds for the repair.”
Oregon Representative, Gary Leif, also reached out to the college to offer help. Leif commented on a post published on Umpqua Community College Mainstream Newspaper’s Facebook page, “Wow, I reached out to Dr. Thatcher and said however I can help with funding, I will help!” Leif said.
“We are trying to take advantage of every blessing that we can find within the tragedy,” Miller says.
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