By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
DANVILLE — State and federal agencies will pay for plugs for 76 water vents they installed around exterior of the Danville Middle School.
The vents had been added to the building, currently under renovation, by the Pennsylvania and Federal Emergency Management agencies as a means of equalizing pressure in the event of flooding. The middle school’s renovations, most of which are being funded by PEMA and FEMA, are the result of extensive flood damage incurred by Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011.
Allan Schappert, president of the Danville school board, took issue that the vents, which are roughly four feet by two and a half feet wide, were to remain open at all times.
“It looked like a one way entrance for rodents and vermin to come into the school, it makes a wonderful gun port…there didn’t seem to be any insulation,” he said at the school board’s April 23 meeting.
Rick Engle, the district maintenance director, spoke with PEMA and FEMA representatives and the solution they devised was to close each vent with stainless steel plugs. The plugs could be removed in the event of rising waters to allow the building to equalize pressure.
Rick Weiberg, of PEMA, was on hand at the meeting to address some of the board’s questions. “They’re designed to let the water in so you don’t have structural damage to the building,” he said of the vents, adding that he believed they were a requirement to wet-proof the site as per instructions from Danville borough.
Weiberg, who has experience performing security evaluations on schools, said it would be easier for someone to break a window on the school than one of the metal plugs.
Schappert said he was still skeptical, especially since this development has come so close to the school’s projected opening in late August. “It sounds kind of Rube Goldberg-ish,” he said.
Engle told the board they should have a mock-up of the plug to test at the school in the coming weeks.
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