Murray State University officials say “everything is moving along as planned” as students move into the residential colleges this week ahead of the next academic year. Vice President of University Advancement Adrienne King led local media around the residential area on Wednesday and described progress made on rebuilding efforts following an incident in June in which a blast from a suspected gas leak destroyed New Richmond College and damaged nearby buildings.
King said the university has replaced more than 80 windows. Utility checks on gas, electrical, boiler, elevators have all been completed in the residential halls and dining facility. Structural engineers have inspected all buildings north of Chestnut Street, including the wellness center, CFSB Center and stadium. King said engineers found “no evidence of structural damage.”
She thanked contractors and business partners in the region and the state for coming together on a short order to ensure campus safety and comfort for students.
The heavily damaged new Richmond College is still surrounded by a fence and 24/7 surveillance. The nearby Waldrop Drive is closed for the foreseeable future, King said. As for the building, she said, “That investigation is ongoing and we anticipate it will be a lengthy process. They have started to do some debris removal. That has to occur before the investigation can continue. They call this a ‘forensic audit.’ So it's being done in a very systematic approach so that they can categorize all of the debris as it's removed from the site."
There is no decision yet on whether the building will be repaired or replaced. "We will be consulting insurance as well as contractors when we make that determination. But we're probably a few months out on that decision,” King said. The building will remain offline for the remainder of the academic year.
A likely detailed fire marshal report is part of the "investigation report," which is ongoing and can't progress until the debris is removed.
Furniture salvaged from new Richmond was either placed in the old Richmond College or stored away for future use. A total cost hasn’t yet been tallied, but King said the university is insured. She also said it can’t be determined if there was any noticeable impact on enrollment due to the incident.
King said all students who wanted to live on campus have housing assignments. She said a group of about 50 moved from the damaged building to the refurbished old Richmond Hall, which the university had earlier this summer intended to keep vacant.
Hester College had some shockwave damage. New carpet and furniture has been installed inside. There are still a couple windows on the first floor that are awaiting replacement. Due to the shape of the windows, these had to be special-ordered. Hart College had some damage to the computer lab. This has since been repaired. Similarly, the Winslow Dining Hall also had window damage and this has been repaired.
Classes start August 15.