On what should have been a routine Monday, students were disoriented by the state of the cafeteria today. With the left side blocked off by a large white tarp, the center rearranged to allow for extra seating and the right side reserved for visitors, students were at a loss for a seat and an explanation
The situation seemed to escalate throughout the lunch hours as the sound of a drill drowned out conversations and the smell of concrete filled the room.
Director of Food Services Rob Stiltner said the emergency project is in response to a pipe break on the left side of the cafeteria.
According to Stiltner, the break was caused by years of stress on the lines. As a result there was buildup in the cafeteria’s garbage disposal and water flooded the floors of Hyson Campus Center.
The problem was noticed last week, and students were notified not to use the bathrooms throughout Campus Center in an attempt to clear all pipes running beneath the floors.
“The broken drain can handle the flow from the kitchen, but not the amount of water the entire building can create when the restrooms are functional,” said Assistant Director of Facilities Operations Russell Bray.
MVNU administrators and maintenance staff were hoping to temporarily patch the damaged pipes until Spring Break when the cafeteria would be closed and a more comprehensive repair could be done.
The plan seemed feasible, and the pipes were cleared Thursday, Jan. 12.
However, in an attempt to better see the break and plan for the full repair, maintenance put a camera through the drain and into the pipes Monday morning, Stiltner said.
Unfortunately, the equipment snagged on the break and made the situation worse.
MVNU maintenance immediately responded to resolve the issue.
“The break in the line has been identified and the area blocked off,” Bray said. The next step is to “open the floor to fix the pipe.”
Maintenance workers blocked off the area and began drilling through the concrete floor Monday afternoon. The team cut a grid into the floor to make the concrete removal easier and more efficient.
As of 3:30 p.m. today the concrete grid was complete and removal of the cement began.
Once the concrete has been removed, workers will cut out the damaged pipe and replace it. They will then relay the concrete in the area. Facilities workers plan to work around the clock to finish the project as soon as possible.
“We only have a specific amount of time to fix it under the health code,” Stiltner said. “Or, we would have had to completely shut down.”
Because of this, Stiltner expects the issues to be resolved quickly and the cafeteria layout returned to normal.
“We have moved as fast as possible to reduce down time,” Bray said. “We will communicate [a timeline] to campus as we gain more clarity.”
Meanwhile, the number one priority in the cafeteria remains students’ health and safety. Stiltner and his team are dedicated to ensuring students’ food is prepared safely, no matter the conditions.
They do not foresee any issues for food preparation or health concerns for students at this time.
“That is one thing that Pioneer, myself and everyone who works here care deeply about — the heath and safety of the students,” Stiltner said. “We will make sure the food is 100 percent edible and safe. There will be no compromise when it comes to food safety.”
Stiltner expects Monday to be the worst day for students as far as available space and loud noise in the cafeteria.
To compensate for the lost seating, the President’s Dining Room was opened for faculty and staff during the lunch hours. However, the cafeteria remained crowded as MVNYou visit day brought a large group of potential students to campus.
Facilities workers are aware of the inconveniences caused by closed restrooms and reduced seating in the cafeteria. They are working as fast as possible to fix the pipes, said Bray. Until then, restrooms in Thorne Library and The Barn are open to students, faculty and staff as always.
“Thank you for your patience and know we are working day and night to restore full functionality to the building,” Bray said.
The damaged pipes were previously connected to the drink and dessert station, which used to reside under the television on the left side of the cafeteria. When the cafeteria was remodeled these pipes were repurposed to better serve the layout and design.