School's activity hub couuld be unusable for months
MARCUS - Preliminary reports from the school's insurance carrier indicate there's nothing to be alarmed about regarding possible mold hazzards in the Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn gymnasium following a water main break that flooded the gym and its environs with more than 140,000 gallons of water over the holidays.
The cascading water, that gushed out of the boys' locker room where the water main break occured and swamped the stage, girls locker room, some office spaces, and the gym floor, before seeping out the gym doors onto the sidewallks and parking lot, has rendered the gym unusable.
The plan is now to continue the original plan to dry out the gym floor with large, industrial dehumidifiers, and when the moisture content in the wood returns to its normal range of eight to nine percent, to begin repairs to any damaged boards, and to refinish the floor.
A second option would be to tear out the complete floor and replace it with new. The school's insurance policy calls for that if the drying out and refinishing proposal would fail to solve the problem.
MMC Superintendent Jan Brandhorst said although he is waiting for the final, official documentation, that the insurance carrier, EMC (Employers Mutual Casualty), studied the air quality tests taken after the flooding, and advised there was nothing to be alarmed about regarding possible mold contamination. EMC insures a majority of schools in Iowa, said Brandhorst, including MMC, which locally is through the Farmers State Agency of Marcus and FSA agent John Carey.
Brandhorst also explained that wood has a memory and will begin to straighten itself out as the moisture content drops. "It looks like the original plans to dry it out and then refinish it will stand," said Brandhorst. A time estimate on that plan could range as long as four months, according to MMC school officials.
Brandhorst also added that the school is investigating purchasing a special alarm system that would provide a safeguard for the plumbing system if a water leak would ever again occur.
"Water under pressure. It should always be a concern," said the Superintendent.
The flooding has cast the MMC winter sports schedule into a tizzy, as activities director Lonnie Boekhout and other MMC administrators and coaches scurried to negotiate new sites with area schools for the Eagle basketball and wrestling teams.
As it is, the high school basketball teams will now practice at MMC's junior high school gym in Cleghorn, sandwiching their times around the junior high schedules. The MMC wrestling practice room was not affected. Future MMC home basketball games will be played either at the Remsen-Union, or South O'Brien gyms, according to MMC officials, and home wrestling meets will be in the Junior High gym in Cleghorn.
The location of many other gym activities such as physical education, prom, drama, and musical events, is still being sorted out.
Boekhout heaped praise on Jeff Schmillen of Schmillen's Complete Cleaning of Marcus, who worked all weekend following the flood minimizing the damage and cleaning areas that could be cleaned with his labor, expertise and equipment.
An avid MMC booster who doesn't hesitate when his community calls, Schmillen went right to work installing dehumidifiers to begin sucking the moisture out of the wood and facilities, and cleaning up the damage.
The school's insurance policy is with Farmers State Agency of Marcus and calls for total replacement of the gym floor if the proposed drying and refinishing project fails, according to FSA agent John Carey.
"We try to repair first instead of replace," said Carey in a telephone interview. "If drying is not successful, there would be a new floor installed. You have to give the floor a chance to stabilize."
The MMC gym was in its third season after a total restoration project in 2005 that included sanding and refinishing the floor, new paint, and installing new color-coordinated bleachers.