Mildew update: A breath of fresh air for Scobey Hall

Stuart Hughes

Construction on Scobey Hall is scheduled to begin within three to six weeks with an expected fall completion date.

The aging hall, recently afflicted with mildew, received a clean bill of health following an air quality inspection, said Dean Kattelmann, Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Services. He said construction is now cleared to begin.

Multiple students and faculty members have reported complaints about mold and mildew in the building, but Kattelmann insisted there is not an issue.

“We want to stress there never was a mold problem, and those who have been in, or are in the building, were never in any harm,” Kattelmann said.

It is believed the mildew developed over summer months when Scobey was closed. Kattelmann said a combination of factors contributed to the outbreak, including a notably wet season and the hall being shut down for a period of weeks over the summer.

Scobey is currently outfitted with permanently closed windows and the decrease in air circulation during a wet season resulted in mildew.

The $200,000 renovation will replace faulty windows, allowing for better air circulation, and re-grade the grounds surrounding Scobey to allow for drainage flowing away from the building instead of into the building’s basement.

Following claims of sickness resulting from damp conditions and mildew, certain departments were moved out of Scobey. Professors were advised to bleach their books before relocating and inspect their belongings for fungus.

Chuck Vollan, assistant history and political science professor, was on the third floor of Scobey, and his department was moved to the adjacent West Hall. Considering the logistics of moving an entire department, Vollan said the matter was handled to his satisfaction.

“All things considered, it was a rapid process,” Vollan said. “Moving an entire department isn’t an easy thing.”

The process did not go entirely without a hitch, though. Because departments decided to stay or go as a whole, some are unhappy with the new arrangement. One Scobey occupant who wished to remain anonomous said the circumstances forced some to stay who are not confident the mildew problem has been resolved.

“Just a look around the building is enough to show the problem hasn’t been taken care of properly,” the occupant said. “There’s still water damage throughout the building, and this is a Band-aid at most.”

Kattelmann said tearing down Scobey and building a new facility for the occupants would be ideal, but is just not possible right now.

“Our budget has been cut, and we don’t have the space or money to expand or build new, so we are doing the best we can given the circumstances,” Kattelmann said.

The university expanded nearly to its limits in recent years. Surrounded by floodplains and the city of Brookings, decision makers are meeting this semester to develop a long-term plan for expansion. While conditions in Scobey may not be state-of-the-art, the Facilities and Services Department insists they are up to code.

Associate Professor of English Michael Nagy’s office is located in the basement of Scobey Hall, the area affected most by the fungus. When asked about the conditions of his office now, he said, “We don’t expect luxury, but we also don’t think Scobey’s out to kill us.”