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Elevators costing UA thousands

By Stephanie Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday November 15, 2002

Last year, emergency elevator service cost more than $5,000

Seven students hurry down the hall of their five-story dorm, late for class. The elevator doors open, revealing five or six students already on their way down to the lobby. The students, late for class, decide it's worth the squeeze and pile in.

The elevator doors close and, with a slight jolt, the elevator stops moving. One student uses the emergency phone to report the incident and is told that someone will be there to fix the elevator right away.

Almost an hour, three phone calls to UAPD and many claustrophobic moments later, a mechanic from the elevator company shows up and releases the students.

The UA pays between $300 and $500 for the incident, because it's not triggered by equipment failure.

Stories like these have been pretty common in dorms recently.

During the 2001-2002 school year, the UA paid $5,230, on top of monthly elevator maintenance fees of more than $4,150 per month, for problems cause by overcrowded elevators, CatCards dropped down elevator pits and vandalism.

The residence hall where students were most likely to be trapped in an elevator last year was Coronado Residence Hall.

This year, however, Manzanita-Mohave Residence Hall is in the lead.

Service technicians were called on two separate occasions so far this school year to release 17 students trapped in Manzanita-Mohave elevators, according to records from Thyssen Arizona Elevator, the company in charge of maintaining elevators in all UA residence halls.

The two incidents at Manzanita-Mohave, along with three other incidents this year in which mechanics came and found no problems with elevator equipment, cost the university $1,148, according to records.

And the UA pays more than $50,000 per year for regular maintenance and upkeep of elevators in eight residence halls on campus.

"We go on a monthly basis periodically to service elevators," said Baine Wyrick, the Tucson branch manager of Thyssen Arizona Elevators. "We check for items that may cause unnecessary breakdowns."

Besides overcrowding, elevators often break down because people stick objects in the elevator door traps and because of vandalism, Wyrick said.

During the 2000 - 2001 school year, the university paid $2,702 in addition to monthly charges and residence halls paid $1,167 for vandalism and other problems that weren't mechanical failure. Last year, the UA paid more than $1,000 for the same types of problems.

Elevator service technicians work on the elevators for between one and 12 hours each time there is problem with an elevator. They charge upward of $100 per hour, Thyssen Arizona Elevator records indicate.

Pre-business freshman Michael Barber said he and 16 other students were stuck in a Manzanita elevator last month for more than an hour.

The students called 911 with the emergency phone and were told someone would arrive shortly to get them out.

After 45 minutes, the students called 911 again and were told not to call anymore because someone from the residence hall sent for an elevator technician instead, Barber said.

"A girl in the elevator almost passed out," Barber said. "Even after we told the 911 operator that someone was having problems breathing, (emergency responders) said they couldn't come out."

As part of Thyssen Arizona Elevator's contract, a service technician will arrive within 30 minutes of the call in case of an emergency, no matter what time of day, Wyrick said.

When an elevator breaks down during the day, residence halls must call resident life management rather than Thyssen elevators directly, except in cases of entrapment, John Minnella, general maintenance services supervisor for resident life, wrote in a memo to all residence halls.

During non-business hours, residence halls can call Thyssen elevators only in cases of entrapment or the loss of more than one working elevator at Arizona Sonora or Coronado or the loss of one side of working elevators in Manzanita-Mohave, he said.

Thyssen Arizona Elevators was called by a residence hall at night to report a broken cover board for one of the dorm's elevators, a non-emergency situation, Minnella said in the memo.

Since that incident, and because the problem reported was more of a cosmetic defect but was treated as an emergency, new rules were defined about when a residence hall could call the elevator company.

Coronado Hall director Rebecca Selleck said the elevator company is called immediately if people are stuck in an elevator. If only one elevator doesn't work, it is shut down until someone can fix it, she said.

Selleck has not received any complaints about the elevators in Coronado, she said.


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