Many students, especially the residents in Jewell Hall, are already aware of the problems with the air conditioning system in that particular dorm. Last year, the students living in Jewell had to move all of their belongings out of their rooms for the duration of winter break so Physical Plant could try and fix the problem. Nevertheless, the mildew and fungal build up in Jewell Hall persists. Because of the complications with the system and the trouble it has caused students and staff, the college has made the decision to sue the company that put the system in place. The lawsuit has been filed, but no court date has been set.
According to President John Comerford’s monthly letter, the most economical solution is now to replace the whole system. The company that installed and designed the heating, ventilation and air cooling (HVAC) system is Henson-Robinson out of Springfield. Vice President of Administration and Finance Steve Morris said in an email that “Blackburn has sued Henson Robinson for breach of contract, negligence and related claims arising out of their design and installation of the HVAC system at Jewell Hall that has resulted in the conditions currently being experienced.”
Blackburn has tried to fix the problems caused by the HVAC system. The evacuation during the 2016 winter break was hard on some students, but they were compensated for it. The students received $100 for themselves, and another $100 deducted from their tuition. Former Jewell Hall resident Cheyanne Miller said, “It sucked having to move everything back and forth so much. I didn’t have a lot of problems with it but I know others had it pretty bad.” During winter break, Blackburn had to replace the mattresses and paid a professional cleaning crew to try to get rid of the mildew.
The new system is estimated to cost $500,000. Until the lawsuit is resolved, Comerford’s letter said that the school will have to take on debt to fix the issue. Blackburn is suing for more than $600,000, which includes the costs of the mattresses Blackburn has had to replace along with the poor retention rate in the dorm for the 2016-2017 school year.
There are no substantial health risks for anyone currently living in Jewell Hall. Morris revealed that Blackburn has worked with expert consultants to make sure that the students will be okay, but it could be irritating to students with allergies. Comerford’s letter said that the problem will be permanently fixed this summer with a brand new system that will be custom made for Jewell Hall.