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October 5, 2001

UW-RF Greenhouse Restoration Nearly Complete
By Katie Vangsness
UW-RF News Bureau

Last May was an exciting time on the campus of UW-River Falls. A new chancellor had just been inaugurated and the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents was scheduled to visit for the first time in eight years.

In between those two events, a severe hailstorm struck that caused huge losses throughout the community. One of the hardest hit spots on the campus were to the two greenhouses at the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

"The windows in the older greenhouses, which were made of glass, were completely shattered. Those in the newer greenhouse to the south were made of double acrylic, and most of the holes only penetrated one layer of the system," said James Murphy of the facilities management department.

Before work could begin to replace the glass, it was necessary to clear away a tremendous amount of dangerous dangling shards of glass and other debris, Murphy said.

After the cleanup, the rebuilding process began, with a budget of $78,000. Insurance brought $35,000, and the Wisconsin Department of Administration contributed $43,000 so the same type of double acrylic windows that minimized damage to the newer greenhouse could be installed in the old greenhouse. The change will also conserve heat in the winter and keep those costs down.

By mid-July, work was completed on the sections of the newer greenhouse. Repair work began in August on the remaining greenhouse and was completed at the end of September.

The greenhouses are home to research projects of both students and faculty. Most student projects were a total loss. Many of the projects were ready for final presentation including the projects of a soil fertility class, whose students harvest their crops and report on them. Most faculty projects, housed in the newer greenhouses, were saved. Fortunately, the only damage sustained to computers was to a weather station on top of the greenhouse.

Dan Waletzko, greenhouse manager, said work will continue for a long time yet. Since the inside of the greenhouses has been exposed to the elements since the hailstorm, there is damage to pipes, and the insulation that covers them still must be repaired. In addition, plants must be repotted, new cuttings must be taken, and the remaining glass shards must be removed.

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