The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Steam Pipes Stopped

3 min read

By Sarah Finney

The University of Mary Washington has undergone extensive maintenance work in several areas of the Fredericksburg campus.
During winter break, UMW had a need for Facilities Services to do emergency work on campus. Improvements to steam supply and water meter replacement on portions of campus began December 17. Public Reliation for UMW sent out two announcements in regards to the work that was to be done.
Steam service was interrupted December 17 for a short time period. A majority of the buildings on campus were found without steam supply and a contractor was called in to inspect and fix the problem. With the steam cut out, heat and domestic hot water in the buildings were also inoperable.
A press release from UMW Public Relations was sent to students concerning the situation. It stated that “the buildings should retain sufficient heat as to remain comfortable. Water service will not be interrupted, although buildings may observe pressure variation and/or discoloration.”
The second round of maintenance conducted was the replacement of one of the two water meters on campus. This was also conducted December 17.
According to John Wiltenmuth, associate vice president of Facilities Services, the pipes that were replaced were installed during the 1930s. Only and short section of the pipe was replaced by a contract service vendor, which cost approximately $2500. To replace all of the old steam pipes would not be cost-effective, he said.
“Complete replacement of our old steam pipes would be millions of dollars,” Wiltenmuth said.
To avoid such a cost, the University generally chooses to replace and repair sections as they require.
“You might compare it to road maintenance in short sections or fixing potholes,” he said.
Although these small replacement costs would be more expensive in the long-run, according to Wiltenmuth, “complete replacement would require many months of shutdown on campus with a prolonged effect on academic and administrative operations. The University could not afford to close for half a year to perform such a wide-scale utility project.”
Another mechanical problem faced the Fredericksburg campus more recently on January 24, when a power line broke on William Street, and created a power outage to the Sunken Road feed for the Fredericksburg campus.
The power outage ranged from George Washington Hall to Woodard Campus Center.
“UMW notified Dominion Power of the outage as did Fredericksburg City officials. Roughly an hour later Dominion Power was able to restore power to the Sunken Road feed, but had to isolate the “Marshall” feed resulting in an outage to the southern portion of the campus,” Wiltenmuth said. “Power restoration was completed by approximately 10 p.m. following repairs to the broken line and subsequent resetting of electrical equipment on campus by UMW staff.”
Some students on campus, particularly Marshall Hall residents like sophomore Brittany Butler, shared worries concerning their safety after the emergency lights went out.
“I felt very unsafe. There were no emergency lights on when I got back to the dorm or even outside lights, as there were in Jefferson Circle,” Butler said. “I ran into my room, threw clothes in a bag and ran out.”
Butler’s suitemate, Hannah Whol agreed.
“There were no emergency lights. I could not even see who or if there was anyone in the hallways,” Whol said.
Wiltenmuth said the University approached the situation the best they could, including designating optional locations for students to go, such as the Fitness Center and Seacobeck Hall.
Rick Pearce, associate vice president for business and finance, discussed how important campus upkeep is and its consideration in the University’s budget.
According to Pearce, UMW spends roughly $5-6 million, roughly 5 percent of the University’s total expenditures, per year operating and maintaining the campus grounds, roads, parking lots, infrastructure, and buildings. This includes the cost of UMW staff, supplies, vehicle costs and contractual services.
Pearce also commented on possible state budget cuts and an effect that would have on the University.
“In times of budget cuts, there are tough decisions made as to what has priority but health and safety are always on the top of the list,” Pearce said.