The Wisconsin Department of Administration and the University of Wisconsin System in collaboration with UW will commence “urgent repairs” to Van Hise Hall following an incident this month when two concrete slabs broke off and crashed in front of the Linden Street entrance, according to an email press release UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone sent to The Badger Herald.
Gov. Tony Evers authorized the emergency repairs last Thursday to “protect public health, welfare and safety,” according to the UW press release. Evers also cited concerns that Van Hise experiences heavy foot traffic on UW’s campus, directing workers to remove existing panels from the building’s entrances and exits.
Though no injuries resulted from the accident, interim System President Tommy Thompson told the UW Board of Regents last week that the concrete slabs pose a risk to those entering and exiting Van Hise.
“If it happened on Monday, there could have been fatalities,” Thompson said to the board.
Graef Engineering Company examined the building’s structural integrity and said Van Hise’s remaining concrete slabs “pose an immediate threat to public health, welfare and safety.”
The contractor recommended the removal of additional precast concrete slabs on the third and fourth floors of the building and the installation of railings in several areas, according to McGlone’s email.
Graef’s report recommended UW immediately remove nearly 70 panels on the third and fourth floors of the building, as they said they have the potential to experience similar failure, according to NBC15. The company plans to assess similar slabs on Van Hise’s 19th floor.
In the emergency order, Evers approved $500,000 worth of repair costs from the state building trust fund and through the state Department of Administration or the Board of Regents — a move that UW Facilities Planning and Management interim associate vice chancellor Rob Cramer said is rare for a governor.
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“I think it’s a very prudent thing that we eliminate the risk of panels falling and again the engineers in their review expressed concern about that potential,” Cramer said in a video conference.
Building tenants from the the UW System administration and departments within the College of Letters & Science will be temporarily relocated, according to McGlone’s email.
Most employees are working from home, and Van Hise is not hosting any in-person classes this semester, Cramer said in the video conference.
The building closed at the end of the business day April 9. Cramer said there is no word on when the university plans to reopen Van Hise.