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Amy Dalrymple, Published January 08 2010

Minneapolis firm to review Minard Hall

A Minneapolis engineering firm will be at North Dakota State University today to begin an independent analysis of Minard Hall.

NDSU hired BKBM Engineers to offer a third-party opinion about whether portions of Minard are safe for occupants following the Dec. 27 collapse of the northwest wall.

At an open forum Thursday, faculty and staff expressed concerns about relying on opinions of the same experts involved with the renovation before the cause of the collapse is known.

“Right now there is a question of trust,” said Enrico Sassi, director of NDSU’s Center for Writers.

The engineering firm has worked in the Red River Valley before and has experience with the clays here, said Bruce Frantz, facilities management director.

“From what I understand, this is a highly respected and national firm,” Frantz said.

NDSU officials hope to get a report as quickly as possible, but it may not be before classes resume Monday, Frantz said.

Fargo city officials also are inspecting portions of Minard before faculty and staff are allowed to return.

The two-thirds of the building south of the 1929 addition have been open all week. The next portion expected to reopen is the northeast corner, once city officials give the OK.

President Dick Hanson said safety of people is the main priority.

“I know we won’t be risking your health or your well-being,” Hanson said. “If that building is certified by the city and by the structural engineers, then I’m confident. Maybe I’ll move my office over there.”

If people don’t feel comfortable working in Minard, they can ask to be relocated.

For students who feel uneasy visiting faculty, Hanson said faculty should meet with them where they are comfortable. Many classes have been moved to other buildings.

Members of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Emergency Management have requested to be moved out of fourth-floor Minard.

“Enough people have concerns that the department as a whole decided that we would like to move,” said Carol Cwiak, assistant professor of emergency management.

Hanson said he understands the questions of trust, and he wants to make information available to the campus community about the work going on at Minard. He said he’d be open to letting some employees sit in on meetings with the engineers.

“I think we need to find a way to make that transparent,” Hanson said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590