The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News September 28, 2007

Update: Contractor’s Mistakes Delay Cooking

Frustration level is at a boil for those affected by continued delays in the Kosher-Halal Co-op oven renovations. As the employed contracting firm, Siegferth Mechanical LLC, makes one mistake after the next, co-opers anxiously await the Fire Chief and Building Inspector’s “okay” to start baking.

“I’m just sort of flabbergasted by the number of problems we’ve run into on this project,” said Project Manager and Assistant Director of Facilities Leo Evans. “It’s unacceptable.”

Co-opers echoed that sentiment: “It’s completely absurd that in the fourth week of school we still don’t have ovens,” said double degree fifth-year Zeev Saffir, a current DLEC in his ninth semester at Kosher-Halal Co-op.

Building Inspector Ron Schnurr and Fire Chief Dennis Kirin visited the kitchen on Thursday of last week and called for re-fabrication of the exhaust duct for the north kitchen, due to improper installation. There were also problems with the placement of a sprinkler head and a heat detector, and the hood is missing makeup air units.

The contractor did not understand the July 1, 2007 Ohio Building Code revision, said Evans, which, in addition to the new rules for exhaust duct placement and make-up air units, requires that all gas-fueled appliances interface with the hood so that the appliances cannot be used unless the hood is operating.

“I’m surprised at the lack of understanding on the part of the engineer,” continued Evans, obviously frustrated that the engineer and contractor had not researched the new building code before beginning the project.

Since then, sensors that interlock with the hood and stovetops have been installed; the hood is now activated as the burners start to get hot, rather than running constantly. Evans, however, was not confident that the electrical contractor did his research and installed the appropriate devices, and will confirm their acceptability with the Fire Chief. The problem sprinkler head, heat detector and exhaust duct have also since been re-installed.

The arrival of the make-up air units was delayed, due to what the contractor evasively described as “production issues,” but they are expected to be on-site with the contractor today. The air units heat up outside air with gas. The heated air is then funneled into the hood to make up for the air that is exhausted by the hood. Evans predicted that the units would take two working days to install, with workers working overtime.

The employees of Siegferth Mechanical LLC have proven to be effectively unreliable. However, there is no penalty clause in the original contract between the College and the contractor, so the contractor is not being fined for the delays. This is the same firm that renovated the hood in the Pyle-Inn kitchen, which Evans explained ran into few problems.

“I’ve begun to follow up with my own crews [and research] and phone calls,” said Evans, indicating his lack of confidence in their work and word. “I just want the hood to be done. [With] the next hood we do, we won’t run into this again.”

“[But] I’m not the one suffering,” continued Evans, “The people who have to cook and haul food up and down the stairs are the ones suffering.”

After their first grill began shooting flames two weeks ago and ceasing to function reliably, Director of Business Operations and College Liaison to OSCA Michele Gross saw to it that Kosher-Halal co-opers were provided with new cooking appliances.

College liaison for OSCA and senior Dan Gessner and OSCA Operations Manager and sophomore Emma Dorst learned about the co-op’s grill necessity at their dinner meeting last Thursday night. Gessner spread the news to Gross, “and I’d say within 24 hours, [Kosher- Halal co-op] had two propane grills,” said Gessner. “It’s a lot easier to cook with [the industrial-sized grills],” said double-degree senior and seventh-semester Kosher-Halal co-oper Hannah Levinson. “They have really improved our lifestyle.”

Co-opers seem generally pleased with the support of OSCA and ResEd.

Directly after the grill crisis, “Harkness offered us a kind of open-door policy,” said Levinson. “We were even serenaded by them.”

Gross continues to provide co-opers with CDS meals and subsidized food from the Cleveland caterer, which Kosher-Halal is using to help them through the holidays this week. Gross also closed the bake shop in the basement of South for this week so that the co-opers can have exclusive use of the ovens.

“It’s still a hassle to get food over there [to South] and back after it’s cooked,” said Saffir. But they do plan to use the ovens for tonight’s dinner.

“I’m glad the College started working on this when they did — if [they hadn’t], all this would be just beginning right now,” said Gessner. “[Despite all the] confusion and frustration, I’ve been happy with the college’s response. It’s just unfortunate that it’s taking this long and that it’s still so unsure.”

The Fire Chief will conduct another inspection today on all that has been installed up to this point.


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