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Repairs underway at Mabton auxiliary gym

Report due in two weeks will identify further steps

MABTON - The Mabton School District took another step last night towards shoring up an auxiliary gym in the middle school/high school building.

That's according to action Monday night by the school board in approving service contracts with a combined value of up to nearly $80,000.

The 1920s-era gym, a smaller gym typically used for basketball practices and PE classes, last fall was discovered to have structural weaknesses in its truss system.

The problem came to light last year when a custodian noticed the gym's ceiling tiles were beginning to separate. The gym has been closed since that time.

Last December the district took emergency steps to contract for engineering services with Spokane-based Hill International.

Since then, contractors have stabilized the original trusses and this week additional inspections were conducted to determine future work to replace the failing trusses.

Superintendent Minerva Morales says the process has been a matter of teamwork, with engineering work by Hultman, then work by Sunnyside's Mountain States Construction to open up access to the trusses. That was followed by Safeway Construction of Oregon getting involved last week to shore up the old trusses until new ones are installed.

Now the district waits for the results of Hultman's inspection conducted this week. That report will be available in two weeks and will not only describe the amount of work yet to be done, but also the cost.

Business Manager Gina Grow said that cost will be borne by the insurer because the weakened trusses were damaged during a severe wind storm last August. "Come fall, the custodian noted tiles were coming loose," she said.

"Based on information from other places in the valley that had wind damage the insurance felt it was weather related," Grow said. "We were relieved."

With the wind-damaged trusses at least stabilized for now, district officials are eager to get their hands on the inspection report in two weeks.

"We're kind of on edge," Grow says.

In the meantime, Morales says the district will continue to juggle school PE schedules with the ongoing closure of the auxiliary gym.

She noted the elementary school's gym has also been used for extra-curricular activities. "The people impacted the most are AAU because they haven't been able to use the gym for practice," Morales says.

The hope, she adds, is to have the auxiliary gym work complete in time for the start of the 2013-14 school year.

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