The Orion

Official: Elevators safe, permits expired

Expired+permits+are+visible+in+the+Meriam+Library+elevators.+Photo+credit%3A+Gabriel+Sandoval
Expired permits are visible in the Meriam Library elevators. Photo credit: Gabriel Sandoval

Expired permits are visible in the Meriam Library elevators. Photo credit: Gabriel Sandoval

Expired permits are visible in the Meriam Library elevators. Photo credit: Gabriel Sandoval

Gabriel Sandoval

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Chico State elevators are safe and in good working order, despite having expired permits posted inside them, university officials said last week.

The 20 campus elevators surveyed by The Orion last week displayed operating permits that expired in mid-April. The expired one-year permits were visible in elevator cabs inside at least 12 buildings, including Meriam Library, the Bell Memorial Union and Kendall Hall.

Kevin Doyle, director of Facilities Management and Services, said he knows that the permits aren’t up-to-date. He said his department contacted state inspectors in February and asked them to examine about 40 campus conveyors so their permits could be renewed on time. But those inspections began in early April and concluded about two weeks ago. A company Chico State uses for regular elevator maintenance, ThyssenKrupp, assisted the state inspectors.

“If those elevators were unsafe for any material conditions or any code violations, the elevator inspector would have red-tagged them on the spot,” Doyle said.

State inspectors, he added, did find one elevator that was temporarily unsafe.

The one red-tagged conveyor — Butte Hall Elevator 3 — was closed for three hours while it was repaired. It works fine and is safe now, the director said.

Doyle said Chico State expects to receive new permits from the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Health and Safety within two to four weeks.

Joe Wills, director of Public Affairs and Publications, said student reporters ask him about Chico State’s expired elevator permits “virtually each year.”

“It’s a common story that’s been done over the years,” he said.

Indeed, in 2010, The Orion reported that some permits were expired by more than a year.

But reports about the university’s elevators haven’t always had to do with safety permits.

In 2012, the Chico Enterprise-Record reported that a Butte Hall elevator abruptly fell from the second to the first floor while a man was inside the carrier.

Wills said the man wasn’t seriously injured.

In summer 2013, Butte Hall elevators had a major overhaul, which The Orion reported cost more than $1 million. In February 2014, The Orion reported that smoke was emitting from a Meriam Library elevator, caused by “a burnt motor generator.” In addition, the report noted a “jerking elevator dislocated an individual’s knee.”

That month, The Orion’s editorial board urged the university to swiftly renovate its decades-old elevators and do a better job of keeping the campus community safe.

The university renovated Meriam Library elevators in the 2013-2014 academic year.

In May 2014, The Orion reported students were trapped inside a Performing Arts Center elevator. In May 2015, The Orion reported students were trapped inside a Butte Hall elevator.

Doyle said that people getting stuck inside campus elevators isn’t common. He said it happens only about eight times per year, or once every month and a half. People call for elevator maintenance about once a week, he said.

In March, university officials evacuated Butte Hall after people reportedly smelled smoke coming from the elevator shaft, according to a Chico State Environmental Health and Safety representative.

Almost two hours after the building was evacuated, Chico State tweeted an update.

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University officials have yet to comment on whether the inspectors red-tagged Elevator 3 before or after the evacuation.

Doyle said Chico State pays ThyssenKrupp more than $150,000 a year to do elevator service and repairs, which keeps them up and running. Each month, he said workers spend about 83 hours doing preventative maintenance on the elevators.

The director said he also gets asked questions about the expired elevator permits yearly. But, he said, there’s not much he can do to speed up the renewal process.

“It’s the norm,” he said. “We can’t tell the state inspector to be here by a certain date. They’re under no obligation to come just because the permit’s up.”

Gabriel Sandoval can be reached at [email protected] or @GLuisSandoval on Twitter.

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Official: Elevators safe, permits expired