Lindsey Gard smelled mold when she moved into her first on-campus apartment this semester—a problem likely linked to maintenance issues at Oak Place Apartments (OPA) announced by UMKC last week.
After an increase in maintenance tickets concerning water leaks, the university discovered a large number of cracked PVC pipes leaking throughout the building.
“Over the last couple of weeks as we have done more investigations, we have discovered what we are dealing with is a more systemic issue with the drain pipes, so we have decided to bring in some outside professionals who will supplement our maintenance staff,” said UMKC Associate Chancellor of Administration Robert Simmons.
In the next few weeks, every unit in OPA will be assessed for damage, repaired and wall cavities will be cleaned and disinfected.
Approximately 75 percent of the buildings’ 178 units tested for moisture in the walls, Simmons said.
After discovering the problem, air quality tests were completed throughout the building. No unsafe air quality conditions have been found, but according to UMKC’s Oct. 3 announcement, mold was present in one unoccupied unit.
Later in the week, however, the university confirmed to U-News that mold was also found in Gard’s apartment.
Gard and her roommate submitted a maintenance request for the moldy smell in mid-August when they moved in.
“There was an obvious mold smell coming from the vents,” said Gard, a sophomore and biology major. “After we complained, someone came and checked it the next day. I wasn’t there when they came, but our housing portal didn’t say anything was done to solve the problem. They kind of brushed it off as nothing.”
The university found no visible mold in Gard’s apartment at the time, and a crew serviced the unit and replaced the filter. UMKC Director of Media Relations John Martellaro says the portal doesn’t always give full tech notes and that UMKC Director of Residential Life Sean Grube spoke with an employee who saw the filter replaced.
After the first visit, Gard and her roommate continued smelling mold in their apartment and submitted a second maintenance request on Sept. 27 after noticing mold growing outside of the vent.
After confirming the mold in Gard’s apartment on Sept. 28, the university called a vent-cleaning contractor who fixed the problem Oct. 2.
“Although this situation was really frustrating, OPA eventually got the problem taken care of very well,” said Gard.
Inspections, air quality tests and repairs of each unit will be scheduled in the next few weeks.
OPA management is asking students to be absent from their apartment during the initial repair work which will likely take four hours per unit. Repairs will be done Monday-Friday from the hours of 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
“Our goal is to make sure students have the best experience they can have in student housing,” said Grube. “It is my commitment that every student has 48 hours advanced notice, and if possible greater notice of when their unit will be accessed.”
UMKC housing contracts state the university will not be responsible if there is any water damage to a student’s personal property, and students are advised to have renters’ insurance.
As the issue is still evolving, administration is working on a long-term plan of repairs for affected walls, floors and fixtures.
“We’ll be taking inventory of that as we go around and do the initial repairs. There will be a second round which we are in the planning process of,” said Simmons. “We will share the plan with students as it evolves.”
It is unclear how long the repair process will take to complete, or how much the repairs will cost the university.
UMKC has never experienced problems with other residential buildings, but inspections are underway looking for potential concerns to ensure there are not similar issues elsewhere.
“Please know that the safety of our residential students is our primary concern,” said Provost and Interim Chancellor Barbara Bichelmeyer. “We are committed to transparency throughout what will be a long-term process. We ask for patience and cooperation from the entire community as we address this situation.”