ACC Library: 9/12/08
Alvin, TX--One year ago today, tornadoes spawned from Hurricane Ike formed a path of destruction that simply left the faculty and staff at one local college in a state of shock.
The devastation that remained at Alvin Community College amounted to $15 million worth of damage resulting from flooded buildings, molding books, useless computers, and mangled roofs. Then (within hours) this college community came together to find a way to rebuild. Standing amid the debris that first day after the storm, the college administrators held an impromptu meeting, considering the task ahead and how they could turn tragedy into opportunity. "At the time, we were so sad and it was hard to imagine," said ACC Dean of Financial and Administrative Services Dr. Darryl Stevens.
The most significant damage was discovered in the library. As ACC Librarian Tom Bates was returning home to assess his own personal situation, he received a call from Dean of Academic Programs Drew Nelson: "You'd better get back to work, Tom," he said. "Your library just got destroyed."
Bates wasted no time in getting to his beloved library, but when he reached the catastrophe, there were already volunteers there trying to save his books. "I'm in a state of shock, and all these people are there to help," he said.
ACC Library: today
In the end, Bates had to dispose of about 5,000 books worth $250,000. Now, though, he believes his library is better than ever. When replacing the books, he made sure to order only those the faculty and students wanted, and then he invested the rest of the insurance money in databases that would support serious research in every discipline on campus. The final piece that means total recovery for the ACC Library is the modern furniture that is expected to arrive at the end of September.
In facing the challenge of recovery, staff at ACC had to be creative. “It forced the college to find ways to make repairs from the storm damage and complete reconstruction at the same time when it was uncertain how much money the college would receive from FEMA, insurance, and also from the state,” explained Fiscal Affairs Director Karl Sager. “Alvin Community College is partially the beneficiary of the push in the state legislature to fund the rebuilding of UTMB [University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston] and other local governmental entities that sustained damage from Hurricane Ike.”
Every building on campus sustained varying degrees of damage. Administrative offices (business, registrar, financial aid), the ACC theater, and the band hall were devastated. After Hurricane Ike, more than 20 departments, 30 offices, and 125 classes had to be relocated within a week in order for classes to resume and loss of class time to be minimized. Every effort was made to keep the students on track and fulfill curriculum requirements.
Significant purchases required to replace books, computers, and furniture could not be made until April, after the college finally received its insurance check from Texas Windstorm. However, acting as its own general contractor, ACC was able save “hundreds of thousands of dollars” and expedite some of the reconstruction, which “provided rebuilding of a very high quality campus that better serves the student at the same time,” according to Sager.
“The history of this college has been to maximize the usefulness of all funds received to operate, whether it’s from taxpayers, student tuition and fees, or state appropriations,” ACC President Dr. Rodney Allbright said. “The original campus buildings hadn’t changed much in appearance in their 46-year history.”
“Since we had an opportunity to start fresh, the college staff came up with some unique ways to use the limited funds ACC received to maximize the potential for possibilities,” he continued.
Fundraisers and donations also helped in the recovery. Alvin-native and baseball hall-of-famer Nolan Ryan donated the funds to build the ACC baseball team a locker room.
As the library awaits the arrival of the final piece in making its recovery complete, Bates reflects on the outcome of this experience: “It has been a difficult year,” he said, but the library staff is “looking forward to offering even more than we offered before.”
President Allbright says that it will be another year before all facets of the reconstruction are “fully functional and complete” but that “the dramatic changes are already noticeable.”
Indeed, the recovery and campus-wide improvements are being realized at ACC in the nick of time. Enrollment is up significantly from last year, reaching 5,200 students for the first time in its long history. Like so many Hurricane Ike stories, this one has a happy ending because of the commitment and determination of an entire community.