By Annie Kinniburgh
Despite a string of recent malfunctions, the Jefferson Hall elevator will remain in use as budget constraints prevent any comprehensive repairs.
The Jefferson Hall elevator stopped working Feb. 2, Feb. 28 and March 16. Each time, students were trapped inside the elevator, and two of the incidents required the extraction services of the UMW police and the Fredericksburg fire department.
This is an unusually high frequency for incidents involving the Jefferson elevator, according to Police Chief Snipes.
“For an elevator to break three times in a month and a half is a lot,” Snipes said.
John Wiltenmuth, associate vice president for facilities services, said that the continued problems with the Jefferson elevator despite repairs are largely attributable to the age of the machinery.
“The equipment is largely original except for occasional replacement of various sub-components such as motors or fans,” he said.
The elevator in Jefferson Hall has been operating since 1967, when the residence hall was first constructed.
Wiltenmuth did not mention any plans to fix the elevator permanently, and said only that incident-based repairs would continue as necessary. He said that the University has deferred $50 million in maintenance due to limited funds and that the Jefferson elevator is not likely to receive immediate attention from a maintenance perspective.
“Our very limited maintenance budget requires that we prioritize needs and often have to patch old systems,” he said.
Wiltenmuth said that ideally, the building would have been renovated in 1992.
“Today the building, like many others, is overdue for renovation,” he said. “The university is working on long range plans to renovate or replace existing residence halls.”
According to Director of Environmental Health and Safety Ruth Lovelace, campus elevators are checked monthly and given a top-to-bottom inspection annually. Lovelace also said that repairs were made on the Jefferson elevator after each incident.
Jefferson Hall resident Austin Bartenstein said that frequent repairs have put the elevator in use again, but that it still doesn’t work perfectly.
“The elevator’s been fixed a couple of times and the majority of times it works, but sometimes there are still problems,” he said.
Lovelace said that although the Jefferson elevator has malfunctioned repeatedly this semester, there is no indication of an underlying safety problem.
“The elevators are old and tired, but that doesn’t mean they’re unsafe,” she said. “There are no elevators on campus that are not safe for live load transportation.”
According to Lovelace, student activity is a probable factor in the frequent malfunctions of the Jefferson elevator.
“Elevators are not made to do anything but go up and down. If you overload them or jump up and down, they will stop—that’s what they’re designed to do,” she said.
She noted several instances of student misuse of the elevator, including climbing on top of the elevator and carving initials into the elevator shaft, that may have contributed to the three incidents this semester.
In addition to incident-based repairs, the University has created another short-term solution to the problem of malfunctioning elevators, this time involving the emergency response team.
According to Snipes, the police department and the Fredericksburg fire department attended an elevator extraction seminar in January that will help personnel respond promptly and efficiently to incidents like the ones in February and March.
However, students affected by the Jefferson elevator problems would like to see a more permanent solution.
Meaghan Archibald, a Jefferson Hall RA who was on duty during the Feb. 2 incident, said that a complete overhaul of the machinery was needed.
“The elevator needs to be replaced,” Archibald said. “I don’t know what they’re waiting for—I’d almost rather not have one at all than have one that breaks all the time.”