April 07, 2020

Technical colleges, UMA picking up pieces

BANGOR — A canoe sits in the middle of the gym floor at Eastern Maine Technical College catching water from the leaking roof.

In a computer circuitry laboratory, books are spread out on the floor to dry, their pages warped from dirty water that poured from a nearby radiator.

More than a week after a massive ice storm plunged much of the state into darkness, the region’s technical colleges and university campuses are still struggling to recover.

EMTC, Kennebec Valley Technical College in Fairfield and Central Maine Technical College in Auburn will remain closed until Tuesday as will the three campuses of the University of Maine at Augusta. Employees at the schools have returned to work but the campuses will not be ready for students until next week.

While power was out at the Bangor technical college, several radiator pipes burst in unheated Maine Hall, flooding first- and second-floor classrooms and the library, and damaging computers and laboratory equipment. Backed up ice on the roof of the campus gym damaged roof vents which resulted in leaks.

President Joyce Hedlund estimated damage to campus facilities to be between $25,000 and $30,000. Systemwide, damage to the state’s technical college campuses and overtime costs are estimated to be more than $350,000.

“I know my budget is blown,” said Guy Theriault, EMTC’s finance and facilities director. He said staff overtime will be a major expense. For example, maintenance personnel were busy on campus Sunday removing downed tree limbs from power lines so electricity could be restored to the school’s buildings.

Students will be allowed to move into dormitories on Monday and classes will resume Tuesday.

In southern Maine, Owen Cargol, president of the University of Maine at Augusta, is worried about running out of firewood at his Readfield home, which remains without power and water more than a week after the storm clobbered Maine. At the same time, he’s trying to reopen the campus he oversees.

UMA remained without phones until Thursday morning, a week after the storm began. Some campus buildings still lacked power and were being heated by generators that were donated by the National Guard and the University of Southern Maine. Cargol said he won’t know how much damage was done to campus facilities until the power and heat comes back on. UMA has campuses in Augusta, Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn.

Employees at UMA will work through the weekend to catch up on financial aid and other work that needs to be done before classes resume. Cargol urged students not to call or visit the campuses until Tuesday. Class registration and late fees at UMA will be extended for an undetermined amount of time.

The University of Maine, which delayed the start of its spring semester by three days, will make no formal changes to its academic calendar. However, professors at the Orono campus may make up missed class time at their discretion by rescheduling exams from class time to evenings, adding class hours in the evening or on weekends, or assigning independent study.

In addition, the imposition of late fees, the deadlines to drop or add classes, and to withdraw from classes with a refund have been extended by three days.

The Orono campus suffered minor damage from the ice storm and resulting power outages.

The same is true of the University of Maine at Machias, which was without power for more than four days. That campus also delayed the start of classes by three days and will extend its drop-add period and the payment of late fees.

“We intend to be pretty flexible,” said President Paul Nordstrom. He added that post-secondary schools were lucky the storm hit during break when students were not on campus.

The Down East campus lost some food when freezers and refigerators shut down. Many trees were also destroyed.

Washington County Technical College in Calais suffered no damage and resumed classes as scheduled on Monday. The school’s Marine Technology Center in Eastport was kept operational by donated heaters and generators. Windows at the center were broken by falling trees.

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