Dunbar weight room built over oil pits cited for code violations

dunbar scoreboard

Fire officials had safety concerns at Dunbar’s new weight room – part of its recently made-over football field and other facilities.

Photo by: Fern Shen

The new weight room at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School – created in a former auto shop as part of an Under Armour-funded makeover of the school’s football field – was cited by fire officials last month for code violations including not properly building the floor and not securing hazardous materials.

Turns out the old repair pits with auto lifts in the school’s former automotive shop had been covered over with flimsy plywood and then topped with rubberized mats, according to the report by WBAL-TV aired this week.

“It was a hazmat situation,” Baltimore City Fire Marshall Deputy Chief Raymond O’Brocki  told WBAL. “You just don’t hear of a school system or anybody just sort of [uni]laterally deciding to cover over these oil pits with plywood and rubber mats and create a weight room.”

Fire officials, who appear to have been alerted to the problem by the TV station, told their 11 I-team reporter the flimsy floor could have caved in under someone’s feet.

“We actually tore the floor apart, picked up the rubberized flooring and we found the mechanical lifts, and we found that they were welded down, so we broke the welding,” Lt. Derrick Ready said on camera.
He went on to note that school officials told him the floor was completed hastily so that it would be ready in time for the VIP-studded ceremonies planned around the new field and the first game to be played on it.
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and a host of dignitaries and alumni attended an October 26 ceremony to celebrate the new artificial turf field and weight room. Computer rooms, a digital scoreboard a wrap-around track and other new features were installed at the school as part of an estimated $1 million-plus donation by the sports apparel giant.
“They apologized to me and said, ‘Mr. Ready, we apologize. We did a temporary fix,” Ready told WBAL. “We should not have done it that way, but we had to get everything done for homecoming.”
School System Response
Baltimore City Schools spokeswoman Edie House-Foster sent The Brew and WBAL this response to their report:
“Through generous support from UnderArmour, a room at Dunbar High School was renovated this fall to be a high quality weight room. After the renovation was completed, a small amount of oil (about a quart) was discovered in an area beneath the floor.

Upon learning of the problem on October 26, City Schools immediately contacted one of our environmental contractors, Waste Tron of Maryland (WTM), to assist in investigating this problem. WTM determined that the oil was recent and not from leakage from an abandoned hydraulic system beneath the floor. WTM removed the oil (approximately one quart).

 The oil was removed October 31, after a two-day delay because of Hurricane Sandy 2012.  No students were in the room after City Schools received notification on Friday, October 26, 2012 through October 31, 2012.

There is no issue with oil in this weight room, nor is there any risk posed by the abandoned hydraulic system beneath the floor. As always, the safety of our students is our primary concern. We are pleased that this weight room is fully ready to be used by Dunbar’s outstanding athletic programs.”

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  • cwals99

    I’m not sure I understand.  When you read oil pit you have visions of considerable oil residue.  Then the underlined statement I assume represents the city response indicate almost no oil or dangers from petro fumes.  Do we know the truth in this?

    • baltimorebrew

      There were several technical violations, according to the WBAL report, but it seems fire officials were concerned most about the possibility floor could collapse. -fs

  • bmorepanic

    Just for once, I wish the city would build something that was outstandingly good, inspected and completed correctly.

  • Carol Ott

    Who was the contractor who decided to build it this way?  

    • baltimorebrew

      The whole project (football field, computer rooms, etc) was directed not by city schools but by UnderArmour which chose Turner Construction Co. to supervise the work. Not sure if they were the ones specifically involved in decision-making on this weight-room business. We’ll ask next week.
      - fs

  • trueheart4life

    The safety of our children is at stake and the Board of School Commissioners continues to allow sub-standard work products, harmful contract relations that introduce health risks and generally poor oversight of most of what Dr. Alonso does operationally on a daily basis.  Every aspect of the school system is currently being reformed except the recalcitrant school board … It’s time for a new oversight and accountability regime that provides for the safety and well being of our children … and let’s NOT forget about their education, which is also suspect!!!

  • discer

    I’m no contactor but it seems that common sense dictates removing the lifts, making sure there are no hazardous material left behind,  fill in the holes where the lifts were and then put down your floor. Seems someone took the easy and cheap way out. Just sayin’

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