Temporary Stairs Raise Concern Among Students, Staff

Diana Petras

Perhaps all students and faculty members have not experienced the temporary flight of stairs that replaced the North Stairs, but some who have climbed them expressed concerns. The temporary set of steps has been up since the beginning of August due to the construction of the new tower parking structure.

“The stairs [were built] to allow the student to come down from the upper parking lot to the main campus [when] the original stairs [were] demolished,” said Director of Business Services William “Bill” Taylor, who is overseeing the construction. “We don’t want to limit the student access to the upper part of campus.”

For almost $27,000 the school hired a company named Waco Scaffolding to install the system. “They engineered it and designed it,” said Taylor. “They stand behind their work.”

He also said that the school has not uncovered any problems in terms of stability and that the structure is safe enough to handle the pedestrian load.
“The staircase is temporary, not permanent,” said Taylor. “They do meet the code for stairs.”

Bob Harte, a Division State Architect, from O’Neil Construction inspects the construction everyday. “[He] reviews all the construction going about the tower,” said Taylor.

However, this staircase has made some feel uneasy. “I’ve gone up and down that staircase twice,” said English professor Alice Adams. “I was terrified!”
From an unofficial citizen standpoint, engineering Professor Tom Ferguson and instructor of architecture, Dave Martin, both have observed the stairs with much concern for students, faculty and staff.
“You can tell it is a makeshift staircase,” said Ferguson.

He said that even his students and peers have mentioned that the staircase was wobbly. Ferguson also observed that there are possible trip hazards because of open treads. To Ferguson, it does notseem very safe for anyone who has to use them.

“I weigh about 300 pounds [and when] I was coming down those stairs by myself it felt a little out of control,” said Martin.
“The thing that concerns me most is that the very last tread at the bottom of the concrete. You would lose your footing based on the constant rise of the stairs. I know that the last step is resting on the concrete but it still throws me off a little bit, so it’s a trip hazard.”

Taylor explained that the rise and run of the staircase is according to code.
“The stairs are at the maximum height, which is seven and a half inches,” said Taylor. “When you have to measure from where we started to where we finish, it’s better than having a bunch of little steps.”
“So the engineering firm set it up at the maximum size in order to fit the elevation,” Taylor added.

However, both Ferguson and Martin worry over the construction and support of the actual staircase. “The staircase seems very rickety and unstable,” said Ferguson.
Some of the planks were loose, but Taylor has confirmed that they have been re-secured.
He also said that the scaffolding frame is aluminum steel. The stairs are wood and the entire structure is attached to the steel that is supported on the hillside.
With the rainy season coming, students and faculty have nothing to worry about Taylor explained. That is because the school has taken precautions to prevent problems with the staircase.

“There’s some burlap to help stabilize the hillside and eliminate erosion,” said Taylor. “We’ve done that all along the backside of the AA building. There are also some sandbags up at the top.”

“It is safe,” said Taylor. “It may not be normal steps but they are within the code and it’s a convenience we provided by the district to allow students access to the upper parking lot.”