Expired Permits Irk Students

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As student concern about expired elevator permits on the UC Berkeley campus grows, campus officials yesterday said the state is at fault for not inspecting elevators regularly.

Officials said that up to three quarters of the elevators on campus may not have current permits, but that the state is responsible for scheduling elevator inspections and has been unable to provide consistent inspections due to personnel shortage.

The university relies on a private contractor to perform maintenance and emergency services. While many campus elevators have expired permits, they pose no danger to students, said Peter Lin, a spokesperson for UC Berkeley's Physical Plant and Campus Services.

"Just because the permit's expired doesn't mean there's anything wrong with (the elevator)," he said.

But some students said they do not feel safe in campus elevators.

"It really wouldn't surprise me if I heard one day that an elevator had broken and someone had fallen to their death," said Dustin Friedman, a freshman intended English major. "I think about that every time I get into the elevator at Wheeler."

Due to the state's personnel shortage and irregularity in performing inspections, expired permits are not unique to the university, said Ron Cook, UC Berkeley's elevator contract manager.

State code allows an elevator to continue operating after its permit expires until an inspection can be made, he added.

Currently, 53 out of the 214 elevators on campus are confirmed as having renewed permits, Cook said. The number may be higher, because some permits are being processed and have not yet been recorded or posted in the actual elevator cars, he added.

The private contractor ensures university elevators are being maintained in compliance with state code, regardless of whether or not state inspections are performed regularly, Cook said.

"Our mechanics all work according to the elevator codes of the state of California," he said. "What the inspections do is they just confirm that they are being run according to (the codes). No one is ever in danger of an elevator breaking down."

Some students, however, disagree that the university's elevators are being properly maintained.

Friedman said the elevator in his dormitory, Norton Hall, is in poor condition. Urine and vomit are found regularly in the elevator, which moves slowly and gets stuck nearly every week, he added.

While he said he had not noticed any of the expired elevator permits, Friedman said many of the elevators on campus are in questionable condition as well.

Overdue inspections are unacceptable for elevators students must use every day, and are especially unfair to handicapped persons, said freshman Farah Khalid, referring specifically to an elevator in Moffitt Library.

"I could have just walked the three stories, but that person (in a wheelchair) didn't have that choice," she said. "They had to put up with all the creaky noises."

The university has no control over when the state's safety administration schedules appointments to inspect the elevators on campus, Cook said.

"The campus has absolutely no control over what the state will do, we're kind of at their mercy," he said. "(But) the university is keeping a pressure on them, we make at least weekly phone calls, and check on (the state's) status."

The private contractor is also working to respond to increasing inquiries and concerns about elevator safety in the past several weeks, he said.

"What we're doing is we're answering questions, and that at this point is, I think, the bigger concern," he said.


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