Groundbreaking Ceremony featured in Daily Record

May. 13, 2013

'Let's go dig some holes' Building destroyed by tornado will rise again

OARDC breaks ground on Ag, bio building

By BOBBY WARREN Staff Writer Published: May 11, 2013 4:00AM

WOOSTER -- On Sept. 16, 2010, Fred Michel was working in the Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering building on the campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.

"I heard a loud siren and then a loud train that just kept getting louder," Michel said. Winds became stronger and windows were blown out and then he heard a loud explosion. Michel eventually made his way to the door that led into a shop area. The window in the door was always darkened, but this time light shone through. Michel wondered why. He soon discovered the back of the building had been ripped away in a tornado.

OARDC Director Steve Slack said he and the staff had to look at the "vestiges of the building for two years" and see how braces held up the building.

"I got tired of seeing it every day," Slack said. "When the building came down, it was kind of cathartic."

But Friday was the start of a new day on the campus of OARDC as many gathered for a ceremonial ground-breaking for a new, $11 million Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering building.

"The ground out there is fresh, and we're starting over," Slack said. "The start of rebuilding is a renewal process. It will allow us to finish off the healing process."

"This is not the way you want to plan for new facilities," said Bruce McPheron, vice president and dean of Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. However, he is grateful there were no major injuries in the storm that caused about $30 million in damages to the campus. "You can replace the building, but you can't replace people."

McPheron said the university was in a position to move forward with the construction project because of the leadership of his predecessor, Bobby Moser, who was on hand for the event.

Mike Boehm, vice provost of OSU, said the day was not so much to celebrate the "building of a building," but to recognize a core investment in people, those who will work on new challenges.

Arriving at this point also took a lot of people willing to do heavy lifting, Slack said. Among them were U.S. senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, Congressman Jim Renacci, state Rep. Ron Amstutz, state Sen. Frank LaRose, the Wayne County commissioners Ann Obrecht, Scott Wiggam and Jim Carmichael and Wooster Mayor Bob Breneman.

There was also the "one university" philosophy of OSU President E. Gordon Gee that provided a lot of resources and a lot of people and the "resilient" OARDC community, Slack said.

Amstutz encouraged the administration to support the rebuilding at OARDC, but it came at a time when there was no money for capital campaigns. However, there was some disaster money available, and the final document contained language that made funds available for "tornadic activity." Amstutz was grateful to see those words.

LaRose said the building represents what Ohio has to offer. As the world population grows, food science and advanced energy research will be even more important.

Canton-based Hammond Construction will serve as construction manager. Senior manager Kirk George said the company is qualifying subcontractors right now as the project is out for bid for all of the design phases. The bids will be accepted in early June and work is expected to begin in early July. The building should be constructed by September 2014, nearly four years after the tornado.

Peter Ling will be glad when the new building is completed. He, too, was in the FABE building during the tornado. While he was in the basement at the time of the storm, his lab, where he was working on controlled environment plant production research, was destroyed, as were the research greenhouses.

"We're still trying to recover," Ling said. "We do not have labs or greenhouses."

There are some temporary greenhouses Ling is using, but the scope of his work is limited.

"Keep up the good work," Amstutz said. "Now, let's go dig some holes."