Iowa State University building fire in February may cost $3.75M in repairs
A fire earlier this year in an Iowa State University building may cost the university up to $3.75 million to clean and repair after, an ISU official told an Iowa Board of Regents committee on Wednesday.
A fire broke out early in the morning Feb. 22 in a custodial closet on the first floor of Ross Hall — a seven-story, 48-year-old building of approximately 86,000 square feet.
There were no injuries reported, but firefighters found when they arrived that the entire first floor was enveloped in dark smoke that was heavy enough for there to be "zero visibility," according to a news release from the City of Ames and Ames Fire Department at the time.
Though the fire was quickly controlled and put out, the smoke had already risen through the entire building, and firefighters had to use large fans to clear it.
The day of the fire:Iowa State building evacuated because of fire
That smoke is the source of much of the damage.
Out of the total cost of the fire, which may reach $3.75 million, $2.4 million was the estimate as of March 19 for Service Master to remove soot and clean everything inside Ross Hall, including computers, furniture and office contents, according to documents presented Wednesday to the Regents' Property and Facilities Committee.
Ross Hall is home to office and classroom space for departments in the university's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, including English, political science and history.
Pam Cain — Iowa State's senior vice president for operations and finance — told the committee Wednesday that it is the university's goal to get the building operational again by the fall.
Cain said all classes that had been in the building had been moved for the rest of the spring, and none were scheduled for the summer.
She presented to the committee for consent approval — which the committee gave — the Service Master cost that falls under an existing contract, as well as two emergency-expedited contracts that had the regular bidding process waived for them:
- Johnson Controls, of Urbandale, to repair Ross Hall's fire alarm system, at an estimated cost of $177,000. "The building fire alarm system operated properly, but was then extensively damaged by the fire," according to documents. There is no sprinkler system in the building — Cain said the installation was not required at the time it was built — and one will not be added during the repairs.
- Story Construction, of Ames, for repairs to the rest of the building — including replacing ceiling tiles in the first-floor corridor and throughout the building, painting and other fire damage repairs — at a cost of approximately $237,000. That contract came in under budget, with the original estimate having been between $300,000 and $500,000. That may ultimately lower the revised total budget of $3.75 million, which assumed a $500,000 cost for Story Construction's work.
As perspective on the cost, the university also plans to spend $17 million over the next four summers to make the bathrooms in its largest dormitory — Friley Residence Hall — accessible to individuals with disabilities, have more private individual showers instead of community showers, and be more energy efficient with updated mechanical, electrical, plumbing and lighting systems.
The Athletics Department also plans to spend between $8.9 and $10.4 million combined for two parking lot projects — one to add 350 parking spots north of the Scheman Building and west of Fisher Theater, and the other to add 330 concrete-paved and electrically accessible spots for recreational vehicles in a gravel lot to be east of the Southeast Recreation Complex and connected to Jack Trice Stadium via the planned East Gateway Bridge project.
No cause of the fire at Ross Hall was mentioned or discussed Wednesday. Iowa State University police and the Ames Fire Department were jointly investigating the fire.
Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be reached via email at email@example.com. He is on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.