Water Lines Delay South Campus Construction

Since arriving on campus in August, students living in Pomona College’s Mudd-Blaisdell and Harwood Court residence halls have been greeted with chain link fences covered in black tarps and construction signs every time they exit or enter their building. Though students were initially told the construction project surrounding Dartmouth Avenue would be finished within two months, recently discovered infrastructure problems at the site have forced the school to postpone that expected completion date until January at the earliest.

“During Sponsor training, when we first complained about the construction starting too early, we were told that it would go on for two months, and then it would be done,” said Hanna Levin PO ’14, a Harwood sponsor.

However, according to Bob Robinson, Pomona’s Assistant Vice President and Director of the Office of Facilities and Campus Services, those plans were modified after problems were discovered with the water lines beneath Dartmouth Avenue.

“Water lines were at depths that were not acceptable, and when we would remove trees and shrubs a bit of the water lines came out as well,” Robinson said. “We’ve had to reengineer the water lines and we’re going to have to install new water lines.”

Robinson said that the ostensibly simple upgrade of these pipes has actually been a major hindrance to the project.

“The infrastructure of the college… is somewhat mysterious. There is a lot of underground work,” Robinson said. “There are a lot of pipes that have been abandoned and new ones installed, so the drawings are not always 100 percent accurate. We spent weeks really just finding out where these lines went.”

He added that new water lines must be approved by the Los Angeles County Fire Department before they are installed. Meanwhile, demolition work near the edges of the site is ongoing.

To mitigate inconveniences associated with the construction, Robinson said the redesigned areas will be opened in segments rather than all at once. He said he hopes to have the landscaped area along Bonita Avenue completed by the end of December, while the area behind the buildings is scheduled to be finished in late January. These new target completion dates, however, may vary depending on the suitability of winter weather for construction, according to Facilities and Campus Services Project Manager Margaret McHenry, who said the project is designed to enhance the amount of recreational green space on campus.

“The purpose of the project is to further the goal of a more pedestrian friendly campus,” McHenry wrote in an e-mail to The Student Life. “The project is planned to be beautiful green area, encompassing sustainable design, for student recreation, gathering, cooking, and relaxing.”

Some students express regret about the project’s setback because of its impact on quality of life in the adjacent residence halls.

“Obviously I’m really disappointed that [the construction] is delayed,”said Sam Alberg PO ’15, a resident of Harwood. “It wakes me up most mornings because they’re out there working between 7 and 8. I want to sleep, but I can’t.”

“Also, it’s hard to leave your windows open because a lot of dust comes in,” he added.

According to McHenry, the school acknowledged the complaints about early morning construction noise and had pushed back the start time for construction to 9 a.m.

Still, students raised other issues with the construction, including complaints about more difficult access between residence halls.

“If I have to get to Harwood or Wig, I have to go on Bonita [Avenue],” Mariah Barber PO ’15 said. “I never really go in the courtyards because I just don’t feel like going through that hassle.”

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