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Tornado Anniversary: Most Damaged APSU Buildings Soon to Reopen

Originally published in The Leaf Chronicle (2/17/99)

Three of the four buildings severely damaged by the Jan. 22 tornado on the campus of Austin Peay State University will reopen as early as this fall.

APSU President Sal Rinella made that announcement Tuesday morning before the House Education Committee in Nashville.

At a hearing, Rinella said 22 out of the schools 35 buildings were damaged but were quickly repaired so classes could resume within a week.
Originally published in The Leaf Chronicle (2/17/99)

Three of the four buildings severely damaged by the Jan. 22 tornado on the campus of Austin Peay State University will reopen as early as this fall.

APSU President Sal Rinella made that announcement Tuesday morning before the House Education Committee in Nashville.

At a hearing, Rinella said 22 out of the school's 35 buildings were damaged but were quickly repaired so classes could resume within a week.

However, Harvill and Harned halls and the Clement and Archwood buildings were permanently closed for repairs due to the heavy damage.

“Our target is to open Harned, Harvill and Clement by fall of 1999 unless there is some compelling reason not to,” Rinella said, “but it will take Archwood longer to reopen, probably January 2000.”

His testimony was a day-by-day, step-by-step recounting of events immediately after the tornado.

Rinella's testimony was followed by a presentation by Jerry Preston, director of facilities management of the Tennessee Board of Regents. He set damages to the university at $10 million.

“We have completed emergency repairs and now we are doing permanent repairs, bidding out packages for rebuilding … insurance adjustors and claims people are on site making assessments and I estimate that we'll deal with this the remainder of the year and coming to terms with insurance,” Preston said.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency Director John White said recovering from the natural disaster could take more than 10 years.

“It's an ongoing thing when there's major structural damage. We're still working from the ice storm in '93. It takes time for the bills to come in,” he said.

State Rep. Tommy Head posed several questions to state treasurer Steve Adams. His concerns included what would happen if the university learned of items not covered by federal emergency assistance, if clean-up fees and tree loss were covered and when officials would know when monies would be directed to the university.

“Clean-up and tree loss would be included in the calculation and I can tell you that the legislature will have to appropriate some money to make APSU whole again but I'm not sure you'll know when until next year,” Adams said.

Rinella said he was satisfied with the day's turn of events.

“In general, I'm pleased with the support for the university and the meeting ended with people willing to provide what was necessary for us to be fully on-line.”

Rinella on Tuesday also commented on the Governor's Council on Excellence in Higher Education and its five-point plant to improve higher education in Tennessee on Monday.

It's recommendations for improvement would be phased in over five years at an additional cost to the state of $307 million in the fifth year. Higher education now gets under $1 billion a year in state funding.

“This is a real plus for higher education and for APSU and, ultimately, an investment by the taxpayers of Tennessee,” Rinella said. “There are a variety of things that we would use the funds for, like fully implementing the faculty and staff equity program and funding new programs that we know would serve the students and in restoration.”