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Year-old hole in OSU parking garage now an emergency

Joe Podelco / The Lantern

A hole — large enough for children to throw rocks through during tailgate parties — in the top floor of a campus parking garage is set to undergo “emergency” repairs today, almost a year after the fissure was identified.

Transportation & Parking Services posted a sign at the garage’s entrance Sept. 21 that said repairs are needed on the fourth and fifth floors of Ohio State’s Northwest Parking Garage, across from the Knowlton School of Architecture. The repairs, originally slated for completion during the summer, must be finished before winter weather sets in or the entire level of the garage could be closed, OSU officials said.

The roof-top hole measures about 2 feet long and 6 inches wide and opens to the floor below. The last time crews worked on the garage was 10 years ago. About a year ago, workers concluded that the garage needed about $140,000 in repairs.

On football game days, the roof is also a hotspot for some tailgaters.

“There’s all kinds of kids running around here that could trip and fall in the hole,” said Dawn List, 41, an OSU alumna who tailgated at the garage during the Buckeyes’ game against Eastern Michigan on Saturday. “They’re throwing rocks in the hole and damaging cars underneath. They won’t let us have grills up here because it’s too dangerous, yet holes are OK?”

Emergency repairs are scheduled to start today and will take about five weeks. About 75 of the garage’s 644 parking spaces will be closed this week. During the four weeks following that, workers will close about 50 spaces, said Sarah Blouch, director of Transportation & Parking Services.

Blouch’s department submitted paperwork calling for repairs last fall after workers noticed that some concrete in the garage had deteriorated.

“Areas requiring repair on the fifth level, as a whole, were identified after the November 2009 assessment,” said Mary Lynn Readey, associate vice president of Facilities Operations and Development. “The growth of the opening occurred during the 2009-10 winter season and was specifically incorporated into the current design and repair plans.”

The repairs had been planned to begin during the summer, but delays in the contractor bidding process pushed the project to fall.

Officials said the fifth floor is still safe for vehicles, but that hasn’t quelled tailgaters’ concerns.

“My kids play up here all the time, throwing the football,” said 41-year-old Kevin Stearns, who also tailgated Saturday. “My kid could fall through that hole. If something happened, they’d have a major lawsuit on their hands.”

Andy Crouse, 31, who was also in the garage Saturday, said officials wouldn’t wait to fix crumbling sidewalks, “So why would they leave them in the parking garage?”

Readey acknowledged that the ideal time for the repairs would have been in the summer, when fewer drivers use the garage. Summer has passed but the maintenance is still scheduled to occur “when it offers the least impact to users of the garage,” Readey said.  

“All repair work has been scheduled for night work, with only concrete deliveries on designated days beginning at 6 a.m. and completing before the early morning commute by garage users,” Readey said.  

The emergency sign posted last week “was intended to convey the fact that we simply cannot treat this as routine at this point, given the coming cold weather,” Blouch said.

The freeze and thaw cycles of winter could worsen the damage and potentially close an entire level in the garage, Blouch said.

But the sign has bewildered some who frequent the garage.

“This emergency should have been a year ago,” said Chris Helman, assistant manager of Wired Out and a regular at the Northwest Parking Garage. “I think this needs to be taken care of immediately.”

Some tailgaters are also worried that the project will limit much-coveted parking space during the next home football game.

“I will be back on Oct. 9 for the Indiana game, and if it’s not fixed, I’m going to raise serious s— because we’re season-ticket holders, and that’s definitely not acceptable,” Stearns said.   

The last time crews worked on the garage was a repair and waterproofing project in 2000, according to Facilities Operations and Development records.

Five contractors bid on the repair project that launches today. According to the last assessment of the garage, repairs will cost $139,120.

“OSU’s got plenty of money, it seems, so they probably should have repaired this sooner,” said Erik Fischer, a third-year in the exploratory program.  

Officials said no injuries or complaints have been reported.

“If they think fixing this is expensive, wait until they get the freaking bill after somebody sues their a–,” Stearns said. “Then they’ll see how much money they’re going to lose.”

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