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January 22, 2013

College makes adjustments after fire

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — SUNY Oneonta continued Monday to make housing adjustments for students and addressed other issues in the aftermath of a dormitory fire Wednesday, the first day of classes for the semester.

A blaze broke out in a bedroom on the third floor of Matteson Hall at 14 East Dormitory Drive at the State University College at Oneonta campus at about 4 p.m. Wednesday.

No one was hurt, officials said, and Oneonta firefighters with help from multiple departments had the fire under control within an hour. The accidental cause was attributed to a malfunction and improper use of an electrical power strip.

The dormitory’s 174 students and one residence director immediately were displaced. The hall’s third floor will be closed for repairs this term, and its 56 residents have been relocated to other dormitories, college officials said. All the third-floor residents completed removal of their belongings Monday.

Students on the first and second floors are expected to be able to move back into the hall by Friday, officials said.

Junior Katie Minahan, 21, said she is excited about moving back into Matteson when it is ready. Staying at the Holiday Inn has been “great,’’ she said, though a little cramped with four people in a room.

Professors have been “wonderful’’ and flexible about classes and assignments, Minahan, an early childhood major from Chatham, said Monday. None of her belongings was damaged because her first-floor room was on the far side away from the fire, she said.

At the sound of the fire alarm, Minahan said, she left without taking her computer or identification, which made the first days after the fire “a little difficult.’’ The college arranged for students to pick up belongings Friday and Monday, she said, and generally things are going well.

“Everyone is just staying really positive,’’ Minahan said. “No one was hurt — that was the main thing.’’

The college has been sharing information about recovery efforts on its website, on Facebook and via Twitter.

The Holiday Inn reported that it is housing between 66 and 80 students on any given day, Hal Legg, director of communications at SUNY Oneonta, said Monday. The college is paying $59 per room per night for the lodging, he said.

Legg said an estimate on structural damages in Matteson Hall wasn’t yet available.

The dormitory’s air quality was restored through a “fogging” process during the weekend, officials said, electrical repairs are finished, and the fire alarm system has been restored. An inspection and approval of the work is expected to be complete today. Cleaning and inspection of the ventilation system and elevator shaft are among tasks that need to be done before residents may move in.

On campus, some residence halls had rooms available to accommodate displaced students, Legg said.

Matteson third-floor students have been reassigned, with some relocated to single rooms instead of the standard double room. No one had to triple up, Legg said, and pairs of roommates were able to stay together.

Students who moved into higher-priced rooms saw no increase in their rate, he said, and students in less-expensive accommodations will be billed at the lower rate. Legg said he didn’t know of any students who decided to move off campus, in which case, their room charges would be refunded.

In a statement issued Saturday, SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski applauded the response and willingness to help offered by the campus community, the city of Oneonta and outside agencies and vendors. She thanked Matteson Hall students and their parents for their patience and pledged that the college would “be here’’ for students.

“Accidents happen. I wish they didn’t, but they do,’’ she said in her statement. “And when they do, responding with sensitivity and compassion makes all of us stronger.’’