The message below was sent to campus on Friday, January 6 from Interim President Bill Christy:
Dear Campus Community,
We wanted to provide information to everyone on campus about a recent issue that will impact some students’ housing this semester. At approximately 1 am in the morning of December 24, the extreme temperatures that simultaneously caused Asheville's widespread water outage also caused the pipes to freeze and then burst in the Village A laundry room here on campus. Public Safety quickly arrived on scene and turned off the water. The few students who were on campus over break were relocated since it was the holiday weekend and no running water was available in the space.
Upon review there were two apartments that had water damage from broken sprinklers, as well as water in the fire panel of the building. We work with outside companies for our sprinkler and fire suppression systems, so given that it was a holiday weekend, it took several days before a full assessment of the space and damage could be done. Within the next day, Village B also started having water pipe leaks. We moved the students and staff from that building to other locations on campus. In order to check for leaks, many apartments required the removal of certain sections in the drywall ceiling that were necessary for the workers to be able to assess the pipes near the sprinkler heads for leaks and further damage. All drywall will be replaced and repaired at the completion of the replacement of the sprinkler heads.
The companies have now had a chance to do a full assessment of the damage, and we are able to provide a full update on the impact to campus. Village B building has several areas of the sprinkler system that will need to be replaced. Once parts arrive, the work can be completed and tested. The fire marshall will perform a full inspection of each apartment and the system as a whole once the work is complete. After passing that inspection, the drywall repairs and clean up will be able to take place. The work will take several weeks, with completion by March 1st at the latest barring unforeseen issues.
The issues in Village A are more severe. While all the same work being done in Village B has to be done in Village A, there is also the additional issue of the damage to the fire panel, which affects the alarm and suppression system. The challenge with Village B is the age of the equipment and the availability of parts, along with the supply chain delays for receiving the required equipment. Unfortunately at this time, we believe that Village A will be offline and unlivable for the entire semester.
So what happens next? Our campus unfortunately does not have the needed residential spaces to relocate all 77 of the current students to rooms on campus. We have spent this week securing an off-campus location to house the impacted students, working on plans for transportation and other logistics and details.
At first we were all hopeful that the damage was not severe and that repairs could be done before students return from Winter Break, but we have learned that unfortunately due to the extent of damages that timeline won’t be possible. We will work with the students living in Villages to provide all the details needed about their moving back to campus and packing up their spaces to move into the relocated rooms. If you are one of those students, expect to hear from us (and also please give us some grace with timing as there are 77 of you!).
We will give an update to our campus community next week before returning students arrive, so please be patient especially if you are not an affected student. Faculty and staff will also receive an additional email with opportunities for support and help to our Village students.
Thanks again for understanding and we will be communicating again soon about the updates.
Warren Wilson College President