Updated: Friday, 09 Oct 2009, 7:13 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 09 Oct 2009, 6:42 PM EDT
ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. - The Mickey L. Burnim Fine Arts Center on the campus of Elizabeth City State University is home to the school's creative arts and music programs. However, the beautiful sounds that come from practice rooms on one side of the building are in stark contrast to the disturbing sights on the other side of the building.
ECSU officials let WAVY.com record video near the band entrance. We saw what appeared to be mold on the ceiling.
"We have to take classes outside on some days because the smell and the mold has gotten so bad," acting student Akeem Williams told WAVY.com. He said he started wearing a mask when he can. "I wear it when I'm walking around the building, except when I have to perform on the stage," he explained.
University administrators say the masks are new. According to Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Dr. Ali Kahn, "The mask issue came to our notice maybe two or three days back. We immediately approached that, and our leadership team has talked to faculty."
Students who spoke with WAVY.com were not aware of any solutions on the horizon, but they said they have fears about the building.
"Basically it's gotten to the point now our chests are starting to get congested, our throats started getting backed up," Williams said.
His friend and fellow student Damion Lamb added, "I'm in the band, and basically we have to practice outside now because of the facility, we're afraid it's going to fall on our heads."
Khan said there have been problems in the building all semester. "We had some leaking in Fine Arts and when it leaks there's moisture and there's the air quality. We've been trying to fix those on a case by case basis," he said.
ECSU leaders acknowledge conditions have deteriorated and warrant a full scale solution.
For years there were problems with the roof at the fine arts center. Administrators said there was a legal battle, and the school won. According to the Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance, Robert Gaines, ECSU will not have to pay for the materials to fix the roof. The school will pay only labor costs of about $66,000 to replace the roof that now allows rain to seep through.
Gaines said the repairs should be completed by January.
Late Friday afternoon, school administrators met to come up with an action plan for how to handle air quality concerns while they wait for state inspectors to go through the fine arts center. They tell WAVY.com moving students, faculty, and musical equipment away from areas damaged by moisture is a priority.
Other buildings are also getting attention. Across campus at Moore Hall complaints about air quality prompted officials to act last month. Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance Robert Gaines told WAVY.com, "We asked the state to come in and they did investigate and determined there was not any type of air hazard."
A representative from North Carolina's Department of Labor confirmed to WAVY.com inspectors investigated a complaint at the end of September, but did not cite the university for air quality problems. However, Gaines said the state made suggestions which ECSU immediately implemented. "We used special agents to disinfect the entire area to make sure there weren't any health hazards here.... They also recommended we use dehumidifiers in the area, too," he said.
Unrelated to recent concerns about moisture problems in Moore Hall, the Elizabeth City State University received a big boost for the building Friday. ECSU will get $500,000 for Moore Hall.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced 20 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will be the beneficiaries of $14.25 million for historic preservation grants aimed at providing assistance in the repair of historic buildings on their campuses.
Moore Hall was originally erected in 1922 and an addition was built in 1939 with funds from the Federal Works Agency of the Public Works Administration. Further renovations/ interior modifications have recurred (1961, et seq.) with 1988 providing a completely renovated building.
It houses a portion of the Social Sciences Department and the Division of General Studies as well as areas monitoring Institutional Effectiveness, Planning, Outreach, and Enrollment Management. Elizabeth City State University will get $500,000 for Moore Hall.
In a press conference at Howard University with university president Dr. Sidney A. Ribeau, Salazar noted that the Department made these funds available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for projects that will repair and preserve campus buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The recovery funds not only will restore historic buildings on these campuses but also will provide a boost to individuals and companies performing the repairs, college communities and related local economies,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said.
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