Rain damage repairs to cost district tens of thousands

Heavy rain in February and March caused tens of thousands of dollars in water damage to campus buildings, including classrooms, flooded basements and leaking roofs.

Damage to campus buildings, included the Humanities Building, Communications Building, Library, Arts Building and Industry Technology Education Center.

The Humanities Building was hit hard by the rain, leaving many classes out of order with varying amounts of damage. Most of the affected rooms were repaired and back in operation within a week of closing.

Repairs to the affected buildings are being conducted with Servpro, a third-party emergency-repair company that specializes in water and mold damage.

El Camino paid Servpro approximately $25,000-$50,000 in repair costs for water damage around campus, which comes out of the college district’s budget.

A document provided by Vice President of Administrative Services Robert Suppelsa to The Union shows the district had sent a damage estimate to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, with the cost of emergency repairs up to $900,000, and the cost of structural repairs around $1.5 million.

The combined cost of damages sent to the State of California was $2.4 million, although Suppelsa said that number should not be alarming.

“We would be hard-pressed to actually spend that,” Suppelsa said. “The fact is, I haven’t had that amount of damage. I want to cover El Camino’s safety net.”

The estimate is in response to a survey sent out to tally statewide rain damages after a state of emergency was declared in several counties, including Los Angeles, on March 1.

Funds from the federal government would be provided if the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration, which President Joe Biden approved on April 4.

As of April 17, federal assistance to repair storm-damaged government facilities was made available to LA County.

The $2.4 million estimate, which includes the payments made to Servpro, covers any potential damages that might not have been located, and may be eligible for the federal funds for storm repairs, Suppelsa said.

“If a state of emergency is called for the state, there’s potentially state money associated with the cost of repairs. If it’s on the federal level, there’s money from the federal government,” Suppelsa said.

Suppelsa said his department submitted an estimate for the cost of damages to the state but he doesn’t expect much to come from it.

“I wouldn’t anticipate seeing anything from that,” Suppelsa said.

El Camino’s Facilities Department typically handles the repair and maintenance of the buildings of the college. However, in cases of widespread damage, the district turns to outside companies to help clean up the damage.

Director of Procurement Services Rita McCullum said the district uses a bidding system for outside companies to get contracts for various projects around campus.

While companies typically bid to get contracts, such as parking lot tree trimming or building construction, they can forgo the process if the need arises, such as damage from the rain.

“It would be considered an emergency,” McCullum said. “Emergency situations are exempt from bidding.”

The water in 10 of the classrooms was severe enough that they were closed down for at least two weeks for emergency repairs, forcing many classes to relocate, Associate Dean of Humanities Scott Kushigemachi said.

“The office staff has had to really be busy shuffling people around,” Kushigemachi said. “I’m sure it’s been an inconvenience for instructors and students.”

Kushigemachi added those 10 classrooms have since been repaired, but that doesn’t mean their original classes can move back in.

“Technically everyone can go back to their original room now because the rooms are back in use,” Kushigemachi said. “We’ve not necessarily put everyone back in their original rooms because we’re trying not to make people shift around constantly.”


Editor’s Note: Fixed grammatical errors on May 4, 2023, at 2:35 a.m.