The Orion

Failing infrastructure affects campus

Yessenia Funes

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Infographic by Liz Coffee.

Infographic by Liz Coffee.

Chico State has seen about 25 elevator issues this semester, ranging from doors getting stuck open to people getting stuck inside, according to facilities management and services work orders.

Meriam Library topped the list with five work orders placed this semester. Smoke was even reported coming out of a fourth-floor elevator, caused by a burnt motor generator, said Neil Nunn, the chief engineer for facilities management.

However, the library’s five elevators—the three passenger and two freight elevators—are set to be modernized in June, Nunn said.

Since Chico State being an old campus it has we have old systems, said Luis Caraballo, assistant vice president of facilities management and services.

“They’re very expensive to bring from old ages into new ages, so we’ve been trying to systematically do that—and when I say, ‘we,’ it’s the campus, not necessarily the department,” he said.

Butte Hall’s elevators were remodeled during the winter intersession. The fourth elevator was completely redone. This cost the department about $1 million, Caraballo said. Twenty-six elevator work orders for Butte Hall were called in last semester.


A jerking elevator dislocated an individual’s knee and cost the department around $64 for service repair.An incident of a woman stuck in an elevator had a cost of approximately $86.

Facilities management and services takes preventive measures to avoid these issues, Nunn said.

For the past five years, ThyssenKrupp Elevators, a third-party contractor, has checked the elevators twice a month for operational purposes, but its contract ended this year, Caraballo said. The department is in the process of choosing between bidders for this year.

The department paid the contractor about $6,000 to $7,000 a month for preventive maintenance services.This fee also covered any needed repairs — like a full warranty on a car, Nunn wrote in an email to The Orion.

Though elevators are more like blow dryers in their electrical mechanics because they can simply burn out, they are treated more like cars, saidDan Winslow, president of CNY Elevator Inspections Inc in Syracuse, N.Y.

“It’s like leaving a brand-new $100,000 Mercedes Benz in a parking lot for everyone to use, and they treat it like it’s your Mercedes, not their Mercedes,” Winslow said. “When facilities feels frustrated, they know how much they spend on these things.”

Even with the frustration the department may feel, elevators that lock people in and doors that act up are unacceptable, Winslow said.

“You’re going to find that these elevators were installed in the 1950s and 60s, and they haven’t been upgraded since,” Winslow said. “Who the hell drives a car that old? If you do, it’s because you keep it in the garage. You certainly don’t see it with the keys in it waiting for other people to drive in it.”

Old infrastructure is a state-wide issue among California State University campuses. Chico State is the second oldest campus in the system, according to its website.

CSU Chancellor Timothy White delivered his State of the CSU address Jan. 29 and addressed the need to fix this issue, nothing that 48 percent of infrastructure is 40 years or older.

California hasn’t been providing the funding for the high-level infrastructure needs like elevators, said Mike Uhlenkamp, a spokesman for the CSU.

Nearly $2 billion is needed to address deferred maintenance, which is put-off maintenance that requires repairing or replacing, he said.

“As the buildings age, they need more and more maintenance,” Uhlenkamp said. “Typically, if you have funding, you can address these issues, so you’re not kicking the can down the road, so to speak.”

Yessenia Funes can be reached at[email protected] or @theorion_yfunes on Twitter.

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Failing infrastructure affects campus