Repair Work Underway at MSU to Prepare for Students

Jan 8, 2014

A trashcan catches water from a burst sprinkler in the MSU science complex.
Credit Chad Lampe

Murray State facilities crews are busy repairing  coils within HVAC units and licensed contractors will soon get to work repairing fire suppression sprinklers throughout the campus. 

The frozen and burst piping resulted from arctic temperatures on Monday night when the University shutoff power to fulfill an “interruptible service contract” with the Tennessee Valley Authority.  MSU was the only western Kentucky interruptible service contract user that was required to shutdown.

The contract required MSU to shut off all power. MSU entered into the contract following the 2009 ice storm. Chief Facilities Officer Kim Oatman says MSU saves around $300K each year. To date they’ve saved around $1.5M. Oatman says the savings allowed MSU to purchase a 2-megawatt generator, one-fifth of the campus’ entire load, which can power the residential colleges, Winslow Dining Hall and the Susan E. Bauerfeind Wellness Center. Oatman says the generator started properly when TVA power was shutoff.

“But it didn’t transfer the (electric) load and it won’t if there is a problem on that circuit that it is delivering power to.” said Oatman “We then have to troubleshoot these…hundreds of pieces of equipment,” said Oatman.

It took several hours to troubleshoot and find the problem, Oatman said. In the future Oatman said his crews might approach a similar situation differently by transferring the electric load gradually to more easily pinpoint a problem within a given circuit.

Once the load was transferred the generator ran for about three hours before throwing a belt that caused other damage to the unit. MSU has a service contract for the generator, but the contractor has been inundated with service requests.

As for the damage, Oatman said crews would work to ensure residential colleges are ready for student arrivals on Sunday.  Burst heating and cooling coils were the most common problems in the residential colleges. Oatman said his crews would do most of the repair work. Specially licensed workers will have to perform the repair work on the burst piping for sprinkler systems, which can be found in some buildings. 

Oatman said there is likely damage to some student rooms and may require some students to temporarily relocate.  There is no word yet on how repair work may impact classes next week.