Career center board gets peek at progress of restoration work at burned building

All of the books in the career center’s library were lost.



CANFIELD — The board and administrators of the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center say the school will be open in the fall.

With the exception of the wing where a devastating fire started May 4, the school will be cleaned, painted and restored for students when classes start Sept. 4, said representatives of a restoration company doing the work at the tech center on Palmyra Road.

Representatives of Belfor Property Restoration took MCCTC board members on a tour of the school Monday to show how far they’ve come since the fire, and how far they still have to go.

Things will move slower in Wing C, where rusted steel beams, broken glass and burnt ceiling tiles still clog and litter what was the superintendent’s office, the nurse’s station, the multimedia rooms, student services and guidance offices, they said. They are waiting for architects to tell them whether it will be better to tear the whole wing down or to save parts of it. This portion will not be open in the fall.

The fire started there in one of the multimedia labs after a bucket of paint thinner caught fire. The state fire marshal’s office is still investigating.

Cleaning, inch by inch

In other parts of the building, where there was only smoke damage, Belfor has been painstakingly working to clean every inch of blackened ceiling, wall and floor, said company representatives Brandon Carr and Ian Gardiner.

They took contents out of the rooms, cleaned them and stored them in trailers until the rooms are ready again.

They pulled lockers off the walls to clean and paint behind them.

The duct work in the heating and air conditioning system was completely vacuumed out, and soot was pressure washed and vacuumed out of the pores in the bricks on the walls.

“The thing about smoke is, it will go everywhere,” Carr said.

The library is gutted right now. The carpet is gone, along with all the books. None of them could be saved, said John Zehentbauer, school director.

In the cafetorium, stacks of cardboard boxes hold textbooks that were salvaged.

Every piece of paper — every document stored at the school that could be salvaged — was sponged off, page by page.

Even the water fountains were taken apart and cleaned inside.

A lot of data in the school’s computers survived, said Jane Hogan, academic director. “The backup networks were intact, so we were fortunate,” she said.

The computers, however, may be another story — almost 800 throughout the school, estimates a representative from the Alex Sill Co., a public adjuster that is representing the tech center in its insurance claim. Each computer had to be checked to see if it was salvageable, he said.


Representatives of the company updated the board at its meeting after the school tour on what they say is a very large and complex claim. The school has a total of $33 million in coverage.

In the part of the school that doesn’t include the major fire damage, cleanup has passed the $3 million mark and is expected to rise, they said.

In the Wing C, where the future of the building is in doubt, the insurance company wants to know if anything is salvageable, they said. The question, they said, is would it be more economical to tear it all down or to selectively salvage parts of the wing. Architects, structural engineers and forensic metallurgists have examined the wing and will report their findings soon, Gardiner said.

For contents that are being cleaned, the insurance company has agreed to $531,000, the adjuster reps said. In the Wing C where there was total loss, inventories of contents are in progress, they said.

For extra expenses, such as transportation to a temporary location and temporary classrooms, the school has $500,000 in coverage, they said. Classes have been at the Gordon D. James Career Center in Lordstown since the fire.

For business interruption, the school only has $25,000 in coverage, they said. That includes losses in tuition and in the cafeteria, so it would be in the school’s best financial interest to open for sure in the fall, they said.

The fire appears not to have affected the school’s enrollment. Hogan reported it remains strong.

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