Towson State building starting to crack

September 10, 1990|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

A recent inspection of the administration building at Towson State University revealed structural cracks in the supports, causing state officials to order further safety inspections of the // 18-year-old concrete building.

After a July inspection showed that the support beams contained cracks and that one of the supports "was not there," scaffolding was ordered placed underneath a stairway outside the building to help hold it up, said Dan McCarthy, a TSU spokesman.

"The X-ray inspection of the building showed that the main support was not in good condition," McCarthy said. "Whatever should have been there, was not there," he added about the missing structural beam.

McCarthy said the scaffolding was immediately placed underneath a portion of the building to act "like a beam" and will remain there until a permanent beam can be designed and installed.

The state Department of General Services also hired an engineering company to repair the cracks. McCarthy said the DGS inspectors are planning to return to the campus to reinspect with an X-ray machine. If further cracks are detected, McCarthy said, employees may be relocated.

Joe Harrison, spokesman for the DGS, said today emergency repairs to the building should begin next month.

Jeff Welsh, a spokesman for the Maryland Higher Education Commission, said university officials reported they would need $2 million to renovate the building that cost $1.7 million to construct. Replacement costs were estimated to be $7.3 million, Welsh said.

The administration building holds the office of TSU President Hoke L. Smith, financial aid, finance, student services, the university's legal counsel and print shop.

The discovery of the administration building's cracks and lack of a support beam was not the first time a problem has surrounded the structure.

In 1983, 11 years after the building opened, the state received $472,850 in damages from the architectural firm that designed the facility, Tater and Kelly, and the structural engineering firm that built it, Carroll Engineering.

Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge John F. Fader II ruled that Tater and Kelly, which has since dissolved, was contractually responsible for design flaws in the building.

A jury awarded damages to the university that were enhanced by a settlement between the state and Carroll Engineering over the construction. Problems included a constantly leaking roof and cracked walls and shattered windows that resulted from the building settling.

The building at one point even tilted about three-fourths of an inch because of a faulty concrete and steel support in one corner, court testimony revealed.

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