McNeill bathrooms get fixed

by Kinsey Bak & Billy Weathers

McNeill’s funky smell is hopefully gone for good.

During spring break, the McNeill bathrooms underwent “proactive repairs” in hopes of fixing the smell that has been reoccurring throughout the past few months.

Simpson strategically planned to fix all of the bathrooms to not interfere with class time. However, maintenance ended up finding a few more problems than they originally anticipated and repairs proceeded into the Monday following spring break.

John Harris, Simpson’s campus services general manager, has done many tests to find the best solution possible.

“Over spring break, Campus Services performed some repairs in the restrooms of McNeill to continue to be proactive in addressing the potential of additional odors in the building,” Harris said. “During our last smoke test of the building, we found that a couple of toilets had leaks around the collar that penetrates the wall. One of these collars had been replaced just a month ago, so having it fail again led us to believe there was an additional concern in this area.”

Although repairs only fell into Monday, students like junior Brenton Minish, who have many classes in McNeill, found it to be inconvenient that all of the restrooms were closed.

“It’s very inconvenient, especially if you’re at a time in which you really need to use the bathroom when you’re in class, considering there’s not many places nearby, especially if there’s an emergency,” Minish said.

After a few tests, Harris discovered the problem was not necessarily the toilets, but how they are connected to the wall.

“We removed the toilets and found that the backer board in all four restrooms was failing,” Harris said.

According to Harris, the backer board is basically a drywall material that supports the wall-hung toilets.

“We felt it best to replace this backer board with a much sturdier product that was more stable for this application,” Harris said. “The product, Dura-rock, is a cement board that is commonly used in the construction industry as a tile backer.”

Ken Birkenholtz, vice president for business and finance, is irritated by the reoccurring problem, especially when Simpson has to find a way to pay for it all.

“It’s certainly frustrating,” Birkenholtz said. “The fellas have stayed at it real hard and we have tried to pursue every avenue. We’ve spent over $10,000 trying to chase this thing down. We have found several things and we certainly hope this last fix is going to do the trick because our bag of tricks are about empty.”

The recent smoke test consisted of releasing smoke to see if it would come out places that it shouldn’t, or if there is a leak. Smoke came out of the connection between the toilet and the wall.

“We don’t know what else to try,” Birkenholtz said. “We smoke-tested the place and pumped smoke into it to see if there is a leak.”

Since smoke kept coming out of different toilets in different bathrooms, it was decided to tear out all of the bathroom connections between the toilet and wall and re-do them.

“There is weight on that toilet and it works on that connection,” Birkenholtz said. “Over the years, some of those connections were showing smoke and every time we did the smoke test, there would be smoke from a different one (toilet). We decided to just go in there, tear everything out and re-do it and that was a little over $4,000.”

Students are concerned if this is the right thing to do, especially with the apparent budget crisis that Simpson is encountering.

“We certainly found a degraded condition of the support structures and everything else, so I think that was the right thing to do,” Birkenholtz said. “We are certainly hopeful that this will help stop the problem.”

Minish has used the restrooms through three years and hopes the money used for these repairs was worth it.

“I obviously don’t know what the budget situation is for sure but as far as what I know, we definitely don’t have that much money to throw around,” Minish said.

Students, faculty and staff members hope to have fresh air in McNeill for the rest of the year.

“We’re going to have to let our noses be the judge and if the smell comes back, we’re going to have to take another look,” Birkenholtz said.

Harris anticipates this will end the troubles, and McNeill will finish the end of the year with no problems.

“Our goal in Campus Services is to make the lives of our campus community better each and every day,” Harris said. “We hope that by being proactive with this repair, we have eliminated a potential return of the odor concern in McNeill. “