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Construction completion in sight

Weather delays work on the Rice bell tower

By Peyton Smith | Echo

The construction is near. Workers hope to complete the bell tower project by Sept. 12, weather permitting.

Falling bricks prompted construction on the Bell Tower. (Photo by Halie Owens)

Falling bricks prompted construction on the Bell Tower. (Photo by Halie Owens)

Last year, bell tower bricks were falling. Now the center of campus looks like a crime scene, blocked off with caution tape on the surrounding sidewalks. After a summer away from campus, students returned to see Taylor’s symbolic bell tower looking like a jenga game halfway through: an unexpected sight.

Sophomore Caroline Shapley was surprised the construction remained unfinished. “Why the heck is the bell tower not done?” she said. “Students were absent from campus all summer, and now I have to walk around buildings to get somewhere.”

Late in the spring semester, the grounds crew noticed bricks were loose after Taylor had a few weeks of weather with extremely high winds ranging 50–60 mph. They believe the wind put enough stress on the tower to loosen the mortar around the bricks and cause them to fall.

After realizing the problem, the grounds crew had two different contractors evaluate the tower and submit proposals to fix it. But each contractor felt the problem originated from a different cause. This led to a more comprehensive investigation to see which corrective action was the best course.

When they decided to schedule repair with S.A. Boyce Corporation—a company that primarily specializes in masonry structure, maintenance and restoration—Taylor encountered the company’s two-month backlog of summer work.

When construction workers finally arrived on-scene to tackle the problem late this summer, they were greeted with rain delays that prolonged the project. The construction process for this project includes grinding out all the mortar joint spots that need to be redone, re-mortaring (tuck-pointing) all mortar joints and installing weather flashing at areas where bricks do not have any other structural aid.

These are hard tasks for workers at ground level, much less when dangling from soaring heights in the air inside construction lifts.

“Working at heights like these goes slowly,” Facilities Director Greg Eley said. “To do this work safely, you have to take your time, and you end up spending a lot of time repositioning equipment.”

As much as the construction company would have preferred to have had this project completed prior to students’ arrival, it did not work out.

Students use unmarked walkways to get around construction. (Photo by Halie Owens)

Students use unmarked walkways to get around construction. (Photo by Halie Owens)

After recent budget cuts and tuition increases, some wondered how the project is being funded. Taylor did not have funds specifically alotted for the tower project. Instead, the money came out of a general building, maintenance and upkeep budget that Taylor maintains for projects similar to this.

Most of the projects funded out of this account are planned for. When something unexpectedly comes along, Taylor has to push and pull other projects to make sure the budget is not overspent by the end of the year.

The bell tower was reconstructed in 1986 and has held up well until now. He said the bell tower is important to him.

Project Manager Scott Bragg said the bell tower is important to him. “Every time I come in the main entrance—daytime or at night—I feel God’s presence here at Taylor,” he said “It is like he is watching everything that goes on and has his hands in all things.”

Even with a few bricks falling, the foundation of the tower is sound and stands firm, according to Eley.

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