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Union to be fenced off for construction

By Brett Erickson
Arizona Summer Wildcat
July 28, 1999
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Arizona Summer Wildcat

The University of Arizona campus will move closer to next month's Memorial Student Union demolition on Monday, when workers begin putting up a fence around the heart of the campus.

The fence is necessary to ensure that students are separated from the large construction vehicles that will soon engulf the area around the union, said Gilbert Davidson, assistant project manager for the building renovations.

"There is nothing you can do about the fence line," he said.

Davidson said putting up the fence could take a few days because there are some items that need to be removed from the area - most notably, the two metered parking lots located behind the union.

Because the fence will block off the entire east wing of the union, the automatic teller machines located on the building's east side will be relocated to the lawn outside the Administration building, Davidson said.

When the fence is complete - which Davidson said could be as soon as Wednesday - students will be able to enter the union only through the main and Fiddlee Fig entrances.

Although the fence will limit union access, students will still have the chance to view the construction progress. A main objective over the next 32 months of construction is to allow students to view the work-in-progress union, Davidson said.

"We want students to be a part of the construction process," he said. "We want them to be able to see what's going on."

Another issue facing Swinerton & Walberg - the construction company handling the union renovations - is asbestos in the union's structure.

Steve Holland, director of UA Risk Management, said asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that causes lung cancer and respiratory disease.

Holland said a mud that contained asbestos was sprayed on the steel beams when the union was built to make them fireproof. It is only harmful to people if it "goes airborne," he said.

To prevent that from happening, a licensed contractor will wet down the material and scrape it off, Holland said.

David Ceese, construction project manager, said students will "absolutely not" be at risk with the asbestos abatement.

"It's all containerized, sealed up, placed on special trucks and taken to a special landfill," Ceese said.

Davidson and Holland both agreed that the abatement process has become fairly routine since the dangers of asbestos were discovered more than 20 years ago.

"I don't think in any way it's going to be a danger to students," Davidson said.

Holland said the workers could also be under the watch of Pima County officials who could stop by unannounced to make sure they are using sound abatement techniques.