Merrill ruins

Large piles of storm-strewn debris can be seen at the rear of Merrill Hall on the Jacksonville State University campus. Complete demolition of the building is scheduled to begin Feb. 1

JACKSONVILLE At their quarterly meeting Monday afternoon, Jacksonville State University trustees heard there’s still a dispute over how much insurance money the university should get for Merrill Hall.

The building, which housed the university’s business and industry school, was originally scheduled to be demolished over the summer following the March tornado that relieved the structure of much of its roof and windows. The insurance dispute caused the university to postpone the building’s demolition, according to the university’s director of capital planning and facilities, David Thompson, earlier this month.

“The insurance adjuster has given us an offer for Merrill Hall that is significantly lower than what the university claims is owed,” Jim Brigham, JSU’s vice president for finance and administration, told trustees Monday.

The university believes it is owed $22 million from its state-managed insurance to replace the building, according to Brigham, while the adjusters have offered $15 million. He said FEMA expected JSU to get $19 million for the building.

“I’ve been in discussions with FEMA about what the next step is,” he said. “If we can prove that we’ve done everything we can do to convince the state adjuster and they don’t budge, we can go back in and reapply (with FEMA) for the difference.”

JSU could get a grant to cover 75 percent of the difference between FEMA’s estimate of $19 million and the state’s $15 million offer, but not the difference between JSU’s estimate and the state offer, according to Brigham.

The university plans to begin demolition on Merrill Hall on Friday, Thompson told The Star earlier this month, “unless someone tells them not to.”

Near the end of his announcements to the board, Brigham noted that reported crimes reported on campus in 2018 were down significantly from the previous year. There were 30 reported crimes over 2018, compared to 47 in 2017.

In other business, JSU athletic director Greg Seitz announced the softball stadium, also damaged in the March tornado, will be ready for the team’s season-opening games on Feb. 23 and 24. The Gamecocks are ranked second in the OVC preseason rankings, according to Seitz.

He also announced that 15 of the 17 athletic teams on campus have above a 3.0 GPA.

JSU president John Beehler gave his report at the end of the meeting Monday night. Beehler covered an array of topics during his report, including the following:

- Spring enrollment is up 10 percent from last spring.

- JSU’s first respiratory therapists majors will graduate this spring.

- Criminal justice students won 10 awards at a recent competition. They competed in areas such as academic testing, firearms, physical agility and crime-scene processing. The SR Education Group, which ranks colleges, has listed JSU as the 13th-best criminal justice program out of more than 200 school in the U.S.

- Jimmy Triplett with the biology department has been awarded a grant to study an endangered aquatic plant native to the Little River Canyon and other parts of northeast Alabama and parts of Georgia.

The full board was scheduled to meet Tuesday morning, but the threat of snow and ice conditions led trustees to postpone the meeting to an as-yet-undetermined date.

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