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Safety issues arise with student union demolition

By Ty Young
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 1, 1999
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Memorial Student Union demolition, set to begin later this week, presents new issues of safety for both workers and students because of its position in the heart of the UA campus.

With major construction projects underway on campus, students, faculty and staff are advised to obey safety signs posted by UA officials and Swinerton & Walberg to prevent possible injury or death.

David Seese, ongoing operations manager from Swinerton & Walberg, the company building the union, said students can remain safe by using common sense.

"The biggest way for students to keep safe is to read the signs and do what they say," he said. "If they walk into a chain-link fenced area and look up and see construction, they should know that they are in a potentially dangerous area, especially when they're in their sandals and shorts."

Gilbert Davidson, UA assistant project manager for student union construction, said that while this week will be relatively uneventful for demolition spectators, the next week will involve heavy machinery.

"Next week we are going to start tearing down the large, white walls around the north and east sides of the union," he said. "Major demolition will occur the next week when they bring in the crane with the wrecking ball."

He also said that there are some safety measures to protect the students.

"They are going to install a shoring device to hold up the walls of Gallagher Theater, and they are also putting in a special scaffolding to make sure students are safe," he said. "There is adequate space between the outside of the building and the fences so students will be fine."

Davidson said that students should appreciate both the architecture and history involved in the student union construction.

"It would be nice for students to observe what's taking place," he said. "Hopefully they can understand the historical significance, especially with the women's gymnasium, which was built in the early 1930s."

Seese said because of the size of the demolition project, the heavy machinery could be potentially deadly for pedestrians

"I have seen a lot of accidents in my time, and with the large machines we have out there, if you are in an accident, you are not just going to lose a finger," he said. "You may be left in a bloody puddle, and if you are not dead, you will wish you were."

Seese said Swinerton & Walberg has taken every precaution to ensure student safety.

"We have a safety official out there who is pretty much considered a bulldog, but he's only looking out for the students," he said. "Everything we do out there is for a reason."

Seese said students have learned to stay clear of the problem areas around the union since demolition began this summer.

"The major demolition will begin the week of the eighth (of November), but demolition has been occurring for the past four months," he said. "There are always problems (with student trespassing), but there are a lot less since the beginning of the school year."

Student reaction to the impending demolition was mixed.

"It seems to me that they have figured out how much space they are going to need," said Christine Klinger, an anthropology and classics senior. "That is why they have the fences there to keep us out of harm's way."

Undecided freshman Grant Berton disagreed.

"It will certainly be awkward," he said. "It already has affected us, but now there may be stuff falling on our heads."

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