Facilities Management replaces steam line, disrupts student traffic by East College

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Plastic fences section off a portion of the sidewalk and lawn surrounding East College while
Facilities Management replaces an old steam line that feeds the east side of campus.  TILLY MARLATT / THE DEPAUW

It is nearly impossible to miss all of the construction equipment and noises on campus, not just from Hoover Hall but also from the East College lawn.

Facilities Management is currently replacing a 30 year-old steam line, the oldest on campus, that feeds the east side of campus, including Mason and Lucy Rowland Halls.

“There’s a section of it there that they’re replacing that is in a tunnel underneath one of the sidewalks,” Rob Harper, assistant director of facilities for grounds and landscaping, said. “So if you think about that angle sidewalk that runs from Harrison to the Union Building, that’s part of the steam line. We’ve had some failures recently underneath that sidewalk, so we’re putting in a new one to kind of bypass it and go around it.”

Like the tree reforestation efforts on East College lawn that began over winter break, Facilities began this project over spring break when most students were not on campus.

“There was a lot of jack hammering going on and a lot of sawing, so we thought we needed to get it done prior to commencement and prior to the summer work, and it fit in this year’s fiscal budget,” Harper said. “So spring break was the opportune time to go ahead, tear it up and do all the work.”

Clearly, plans to finish the job over spring break were not fully accomplished.

“In a perfect world, we would’ve had it done over spring break,” Harper said. “It’s about seven-day work duration if everything went well, but we had some weather in there, we had a holiday in there.”

Harper believes the project will be finished within the next week or so, allowing his team to re-seed and finish the lawn. He predicts that the necessary concrete work will be completed within a couple of weeks, depending on weather.

With several prospective student tours on campus, this disruption is puzzling for potential DePauw students and their families. First-year Admission Ambassador Arman Nazari explained his tactic for shedding positive light on the distracting construction work.

“I basically just let them know that we are a developing campus and are always looking to get better,” Nazari said. “At first, they’re a little turned off when they see it, but once they realize that it’s all short term stuff, they don’t mind it too much.”

Nazari is also sure to mention that the work will be completed, if not mostly completed, but the time those prospective students would attend DePauw.

“If anything, they have a slightly positive reaction because things will be better for them,” he said.

For current students, though, it is simply an annoyance.

“It’s kind of annoying when you’re walking to class because they cut off one of the main paths to East College,” first-year Erica Rapelje said.

Harper and Facilities recognize this inconvenience, but stress that it is necessary for the time being.

“The challenge is where it’s at – it’s right in the middle, the heart of campus," Harper said. "This is just another disruption for students, which is, again, unfortunate, but we have to maintain the infrastructure of the university so we don’t have major issues."