Three theme houses cope with wet basements after storm

Residents displeased with communication, prevention


During the heavy rainfall of Sept. 15, water began to seep into the basement of three theme houses: Menlo, Campus and Wahl. A few inches of water sat on the floor of the latter two, while the carpet soaked up the moisture in Menlo.

Residents of the houses expressed frustration about the handling of the flooding and what they deemed to be a lack of preventative measures.

Senior Nicole Grinager, a resident of Campus House, said that her housing issues have been “super frustrating.”

“At Augustana, where we hold our students, our professors, our community up to such a high standard, we are completely neglecting places where students are living,” she said.

Grinager was dissatisfied with the speed of the water’s removal, which took a few days due to miscommunication.She would’ve been more unhappy, but the basement is uninhabitable anyway.
nicole-grinagerShe also expressed displeasure with her house’s lack of laundry access and limited overhead lighting.

Dean of Students Jim Bies said that Campus House’s basement is unlivable because of its old-fashioned design, as is the case with some older theme houses which are currently vacant.
“A lot of these houses, when they were built, the basement was just simply the foundation of the house,” Bies said. “And, try as you might want to, the cost of renovation is not justified based on the value of the property.”

Bies added that many uninhabitable basements do not pass safety or fire codes because of myriad reasons, so students have never been allowed to live down there.

The basement of Wahl House is supposed to be livable, so when it flooded twice to start the year, two residents were living with water in their bedrooms.

Senior Allison Koehn said that it’s been a stressful first few weeks with additional roommates in the form of industrial fans and dehumidifiers constantly running downstairs.

She said that her biggest gripe was the miscommunication between her housemates and the combination of maintenance and Campus Life. She added that she wished those departments would have been more proactive in dealing with the possibility of flood-inducing rains.

Maintenance’s response to the second flood was a silver lining for Koehn.

“On (Sept. 15), maintenance was there at our house for four-and-a-half hours sucking out the water,” Koehn said. “They had three to six people during the time they were working on our house, so they put in a really strong effort.”

jim-biesBies stressed that any issue with facilities should be directed to Campus Safety, which contacts the proper channels so help can be sent. A hall director, maintenance person and higher-level official are on-call 24/7 to respond to Campus Safety.

While satisfaction with the university’s response fluctuated, residents of all three houses expressed safety concerns due to potential water damage.

“The basement smelt so musty,” said senior Megan Wencl, a Menlo Annex resident. “I am at Augustana to study, and this is a lot of added stress, especially because it feels like no one is doing anything about it.”

Bies admitted that Campus Life didn’t hear about the Menlo basement until days after the water intruded. Maintenance had been notified, but the miniature fan it provided wasn’t any help, according to Wencl.

In regards to safety issues, Bies said that Augustana’s housekeeping crew runs tests on any house with a water incident to ensure its safety. It takes a while to run those tests, but if any house proves unhealthy, alternate housing is available.

That alternate housing has been offered to residents of Wahl House because of standing water appearing twice in two bedrooms during a three-week span. Bies said the offer was made based on comfort concerns, not health questions.

A few options, usually theme houses or apartment spaces, stay vacant for unusual circumstances.

Koehn said she was impressed with how Bies has handled the situation.

“We had a really nice conversation with him [Bies],” she said. “He understands where we’re coming from with the frustration.”

Grinager said that more can be done by Campus Life and the university as a whole to help students. She wished the response to the Labor Day water would have helped prevent the flooding a few weeks later.

“When are you going to get tired of us having the same conversation?” she said. “Be proactive and do something.”

Bies said that he was surprised that the houses flooded, adding that it hadn’t been an issue until a major storm in Aug. 2015. He figured that it was an isolated incident of torrential rain.

Koehn said that campus safety also mentioned only one recent water incident, but Wahl House’s previous residents claimed the house “flooded often.”

“The theme of this story is miscommunication,” Koehn said.

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