Federal officials tour
UH to survey damages
By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff
U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) toured UH on Saturday to get
a first-hand look at the damages to the campus caused
by flooding in Tropical Storm Allison,
and the University's efforts to recover.
During the nearly two-hour visit, Paige
and Lee visited the John O'Quinn Law Library, the Bates Law Building and
Agnes Arnold Hall, three of the campus's hardest-hit buildings.
They also saw Hoffeinz Pavilion, where
many of the University's flood-damaged offices have been reset up.
Opal Jackson/Federal Emergency
Management Agency Public Affairs
U.S. Secretary of Education
Rod Paige (center) and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (second from left)
were accompanied by UH administrators and Federal Emergency Management
Agency officials, surveyed damages during their visit to campus Saturday.
They were accompanied by officials from
the Federal Emergency Management Agency, state representatives, UH administrators
and members of the UH System Board of Regents.
UHS Regent Eduardo Aguirre said the purpose
of the visit was "to re-acquaint Congresswoman Lee and acquaint Secretary
Paige with the devastation at UH, and to show them
what a great response we had."
He said some of the sentiments expressed
by Paige and Lee about the damages were "stunning, depressing, devastating."
"But they also complimented the remarkable
recovery and the outstanding teamwork of the UH community," Aguirre said.
Lee, whose congressional district encompasses
the Third Ward and UH, visited the campus about four weeks ago. This was
Paige's first time to see the campus since the flooding
occurred. Paige served as the superintendent
of the Houston Independent School District before being appointed to the
Department of Education post by President George W.
"The visit went extremely well," said David
Irwin, associate vice president for plant operations, who served as "tour
guide." He said that since Lee had seen the damages in June, "It
was helpful for her to see the progress
"For Secretary Paige, even though he had
seen reports of the damages, it was helpful for him to get a first-hand
look," Irwin said. He added that Paige would be able to share his
observations with Bush and other members
of the Cabinet to convince them of the need for more federal emergency
Irwin said that both Paige's and Lee's
"paramount concern was the health and safety of UH students, faculty and
staff." He said they were reassured by the University's efforts to
clean all contaminated spaces and continue
monitoring the air in the affected buildings.
Irwin said the officials were "very impressed
with the creativity displayed by the University" in relocating the flooded-out
offices and departments to Hoffeinz.
Ninety of the campus's 105 buildings received
some damage in the June 8 storm, with 25 percent receiving substantial
damage. Besides the three listed above, the buildings that
are still closed for renovation or because
of power-related problems are the Fine Arts Building, Krost Hall and Teaching
The University estimates that its restoration
costs stand at $260 million.
Of that, $158 million is for construction
costs, $2 million is for lost income and $100 million if for lost research.
Irwin said Paige and Lee expressed a commitment
to convince federal agencies that sponsor UH research to show some flexibility,
especially in terms of extending deadlines that
might be missed. Lee said there was a
possibility that Congress might pass a bill providing FEMA with additional
funding, he added.
"I think it was a very positive visit.
They both were very supportive of UH," said Elaine Charlson, associate
vice president for academic affairs.