Cumberland Times-News

June 15, 2013

Close call

Inspection shows school bleachers were unsafe

Cumberland Times-News

— Thanks to a routine inspection, what could well have been a major disaster has been averted at Westmar Middle School’s football field.

It was revealed at last week’s Allegany County Board of Education meeting that the inspection found the potential for a “mass foundation failure.” In other words, the bleachers might have collapsed if the problem went uncorrected.

We hate to imagine the harm that could have occurred had the bleachers given way when a crowd was watching action on the football field.

Vince Montana, the school system’s director facilities, told the board: “We noticed considerable erosion around the concrete piers that support the steel beams that support the bleachers.”

Once the problem was uncovered, the bleachers were closed. An inspection was conducted by the structural engineering firm of Regan-Matonak and Associates, based in Hagerstown. Subsequently, school officials decided the bleachers will have to be removed and portable bleachers will be purchased in sufficient numbers to accommodate the entire student body.

Montana said the cost to repair the bleachers, which would include dismantling the old stands and digging new footings, would be higher than that of purchasing new bleachers.

Discovery of the bleacher safety issue underscores the importance of routine inspections of school facilities. Montana and his staff are to be commended for paying attention to detail and carrying out inspections on a regular basis.

In the case of Westmar Middle School, the action may well have averted injury — or worse.