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NDSU's Minard Hall collapse cause still unknown

The north face of Minard Hall collapsed overnight during a construction project at North Dakota State University. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Nine months after the northwest wall of North Dakota State University's Minard Hall collapsed, the cause of the failure and who is going to pay for it remain unknown.

A forensic investigation into the collapse is ongoing with results expected this fall.

So far, NDSU has spent more than $1 million on expenses related to the collapse.

After a cause is determined, NDSU will seek reimbursement through insurance or through a responsible party, if one is identified, said Bruce Bollinger, vice president for finance and administration.

Mike Ellingson, interim facilities co-director, said the goal is to stick with the summer 2012 completion date for the $18 million expansion and renovation, but "it's going to be a challenge."

NDSU hired Fargo attorney Dan Hull early in the process because of potential issues down the line with insurance claims or legal issues, said Rick Johnson, NDSU's general counsel.

There are more than six parties involved with the situation and just as many attorneys and engineering experts.

The main parties involved are NDSU, general contractor Meinecke-Johnson, JLG Architect, the North Dakota State Fire and Tornado Fund and geotechnical firm Northern Technologies, Hull said.

The parties aren't talking about litigation at this point, but everyone's protecting their own interests, Johnson said.

"The gloves haven't come off," Johnson said.

NDSU also has hired SEH, a Twin Cities geotechnical firm, to assist.

Jeff Bitz, administrator for State Fire and Tornado Fund, said the Minard claim is one of the most complicated his office has handled because of the multiple parties involved and what led up to it.

"Everyone's been cooperating very well," Bitz said.

The parties are working together on the investigation, and results are expected in late October or in November, Ellingson said.

Of the approximately $1 million associated with the collapse, about $835,000 was for building-related expenses and about $218,000 was for legal and engineering fees, moving costs, security and other expenses.

In addition, the departments affected by the collapse reported expenses of about $67,000 that are being evaluated to see if they may qualify for reimbursement, said Karla Mongeon-Stewart, interim facilities co-director.

NDSU also has incurred about $121,000 of expenses related to the forensic study, of which NDSU's share will be $17,500, Mongeon-Stewart said.

Work on the north addition of Minard is being delayed by the forensic evaluation, Ellingson said.

To keep the overall project at $18 million, the furniture budget is being scaled back, and faculty are being asked to use their old furniture if possible, said Tom Riley, dean of arts and humanities.

Meanwhile, NDSU faculty, staff and students continue to occupy Minard while the construction work is ongoing.

"We're definitely in the middle of construction," said Paul Rokke, chairman of the psychology department. "We hear the hammers and the constant noise every day."

Ellingson said it'd be ideal to move departments to other space on campus, but Minard is such a large building that it's not possible.

"It complicates matters by doing it that way," Ellingson said. "But we just don't have on this campus spare 71,000 square feet some place."