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NDSU building stabilized; cost of collapse could be 'several hundred thousand' dollars

FARGO - The foundation under a collapsed wall of Minard Hall at North Dakota State University has been stabilized, and officials are trying to figure out how to proceed with an addition and remodeling project.

General contractor Meinecke-Johnson finished shoring up the building's foundation with soil about 1 a.m. today, said Bruce Franz, NDSU director of facilities management.

"So, the situation is stabilized, but we need to get a game plan in place so we can continue with the construction of the addition as well as the renovation of the existing building," he said.

Meinecke-Johnson is working on bringing in a Minneapolis contractor who specializes in structural construction to shore up the building so the $18 million project can proceed, he said.

Sunday's collapse will likely add "several hundred thousand dollars" in cost to the project, Franz said, adding officials plan to inspect the building from the inside today to gauge the extent of damage.

Firefighters responding to the site early Sunday found the foundation had sunk along the edge of an excavation site on the north side of the building and the west half of the north outside wall had collapsed.

Problems with the soils under the building caused the collapse, Franz said. Asked what was wrong with the soils, he said, "I guess I don't want to venture down that road yet."

Both the contractor and NDSU have insurance, he said.

"It's just a matter of who's responsible and all those kind of things," he said. "All that's to be determined. Everybody's working together harmoniously right now."

NDSU officials are working to find alternative office and classroom space for faculty and students displaced by the collapse, NDSU spokeswoman Najla Ghazi Amundson said.

No one was inside the building when it collapsed.

The part that collapsed is part of an addition to Minard Hall built in 1929. Since the original building was built in 1901, Minard Hall has been added onto four times, growing from 16,320 square feet to more than 105,000 square feet, according to NDSU's Web site.

Students will return to portions of building when classes resume Jan. 11, but the collapsed area - which was scheduled for renovation about a year from now - probably won't be used again, Franz said.

"It doesn't make any sense to shore that up in its existing condition, because it's going to be changed totally as part of the project," he said.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.