Cooley said workers not at fault for Blair fire

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While it may appear to returning students that little change has been made to Blair Hall since they left school three months ago, Eastern’s president Lou Hencken said there has been a lot of progress made this summer.

“I have been very pleased with the speed with which everything has been completed,” he said.

After the summer’s progress, the university has set January 2006 as the goal for their return to Blair Hall, Jeff Cooley, vice president of business affairs, said.

Hencken said that the summer has seen mainly planning in the interior design and the search for the right company to execute that plan. He said the process may take a little longer because Eastern is very concerned with maintaining the look of Blair Hall.

Eastern’s Board of Trustees reached an agreement with Ratio/SRA Architects of Champaign to repair the interior of Blair. The board will take bids on the roof at the next board meeting on September 10, Cooley said. Roof construction will begin shortly after, followed by the repairs on the interior.

Hencken said the university would also like to expand slightly on Blair Hall. On the west side of Blair Hall, the quad side, there is a part of the building that sticks out, looking like an add-on to the first floor.

Hencken said the university did some research and found out it was an addition built in the early 1950s. Money permitting, the reconstruction will include expanding this to the third floor, which would add several classrooms to Blair Hall.

This is dependent on the finances, which Cooley said are still in the air. He has been negotiating with the insurance companies, who he said have been very cooperative.

The cause of the April 28 fire has been determined to be accidental, Cooley said. There were workers in the area who used a gun to heat paint for removal from walls. The heat from the gun combusted some material, such as a bird’s nest, in between the walls of Blair Hall, Cooley said.

He said the workers followed the proper procedure for working with heat. They were instructed to monitor any area that heat was used to make sure there were no fires. Unfortunately, in this case the fire was located inside the wall and was not detected until it was too late, he said.