UPDATE: Tara Apartments decks, sealed off limits in March, will be removed

Thursday, May 15, 2014 | 5:46 p.m. CDT; updated 11:43 a.m. CDT, Friday, May 16, 2014
MU sealed off the rear decks at the Tara Apartments on March 21. The closure allowed for a careful inspection of the decks that determined they would need to be reinforced or replaced. MU has decided to remove the decks.

COLUMBIA — Tara Apartments' rear decks will be removed following a recommendation from a structural engineering firm, according to an email sent Thursday to Tara residents.

Trabue, Hansen and Hinshaw Inc., inspected all MU buildings after the University Village walkway collapse in February. The firm found that 18 of the 376 buildings had structural issues of "immediate concern." Half of those structural issues came from Tara's decks.

University Student Apartments staff had hoped to reinforce the decks, but that would only be a temporary solution, according to the report from Trabue, Hansen and Hinshaw Inc..

"Reinforcing them was the most expensive option, and it only deferred the problem because it didn't replace the original deck," said Frankie Minor,  director of residential life.

The report estimated that reinforcing the decks would have cost about $885,060. The firm recommended removing the decks and replacing the doors with windows at an estimated cost of $770,220.

The rest of the "immediate concerns" in the engineering firm's report have been fixed or addressed with a temporary solution. The firm had cited issues with walkways at Missouri Theatre, Lafferre Hall and the MU Power Plant. The report also identified a "badly deteriorated" staircase at Loeb Hall, which has been replaced with a wooden staircase.

In March, the firm sent a letter to Larry Hubbard, director of campus facilities, to "strongly recommend" closing the rear decks of all 16 buildings at Tara Apartments.

Engineers from the firm looked at the decks from the ground during its campuswide evaluation and noticed that the supporting beams had "lost some of their original capacity due to age and exposure to the elements," according to the letter.

One deck was able to support three adult men, according to the letter, but there was enough "deflection" — or give — that the firm recommended sealing off the decks to allow time for further inspection. The decks were sealed beginning March 21.  

Minor said there is no timeline in place for removing the decks, nor is there a plan for how Residential Life will pay for the project. 

Residents can remain in their apartments while the decks are removed, Minor said.

Residential Life operates as an auxiliary unit from the university, so it does not receive institutional, state or other outside funding. Money for operating costs and improvement projects comes from apartment revenues, Minor said.

"Our sense is, (the residents) should not have to pay for (removing the decks), but the money has to come from somewhere," Minor said.  

Residential Life's fiscal year ends June 30, Minor said. After that, the department will see if there is money left over to pay for removing the decks. 

Residents can remain in their apartments while the decks are removed, Minor said.

Balconies have been removed from other Residential Life buildings in the past, Minor said. Steel and reinforced concrete balconies at Hatch,, Schurz, Hudson and Gillett halls posed a liability risk and accessibility issue, and they were removed between 2007 and 2011. 

Tara Apartments is one of four university-owned apartment complexes, including University Village, designed to house graduate students and students with families. The 16-building complex is located on Ashland Road off Stadium Boulevard. It was built between 1982 and 1984, MU spokesperson Christian Basi said

MU does not perform regularly scheduled structural inspections of its buildings, according to previous Missourian reporting. The buildings are checked by maintenance workers during routine work requests made by residents, Basi said in February.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.


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