Section: News

Prayer center continues to experience flooding

The Prayer and Meditation Center — located in the basement of the Village Inn — has experienced intermittent flooding in recent years, a complication that came to a head last week when the College commissioned flooding prevention work on the building.

The Center is used by Kenyon students and Mount Vernon residents alike for Friday prayers.

“It has flooded so many times by now, and we keep asking maintenance to find a solution for it,” Professor of Mathematics Nuh Aydin, who uses the Center frequently and attends Friday prayers, said.

“Instead of solving the root cause of the problem,” he said, “they keep trying to clean it, dry it, and then replace [the] carpet.”       

Aydin said he wrote to President Sean Decatur and Provost Joe Klesner about the flooding last April, to which he received an in-depth response from Director of Facility Operations Steven Arnett outlining the mechanisms of the flooding. “There was specific causes and fixes they were going to do, that was in April of this past year,” he said. “I was expecting something to happen, but nothing seems to have happened.”    

Fearing flood issues would only escalate in the future, Aydin said it was crucial that the current work prove effective. “If they don’t really solve the problem, this current space will flood again, many times,” he said. Aydin added that the wet carpet from the flooding is especially inconvenient for those practicing Islam. “Of course it affects us more because we kneel on the carpet,” he said. “If it is wet, we cannot use it for prayer.”   

Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman said there are a multitude of infrastructure problems that could be contributing to the flooding. Because the entrance to the Center is at the bottom of an external stairwell, it’s easy for water to get through. One of these leaks is the result of a gutter issue, which Kohlman said has recently been corrected with the addition of a downspout. In addition, the roof will be supplemented with an awning to fend off excess rainwater.   

Another source of the flooding Kohlman mentioned was water coming down from the sidewalk on Gaskin Avenue, which seeps in through the exterior basement stairwell. “Once the roof is done, then the concrete guys will come and tear up part of that sidewalk and redo it,” Kohlman said.

When asked whether these would be foolproof solutions, Kohlman said he was “not gonna commit to that.” He added that he hopes the work will be effective at preventing future floods, but that there is no way to tell for sure until another incidence of heavy rainfall.

Kohlman said there are construction plans for a new building that will house the Prayer and Meditation Center; work on that building is intended to commence next spring.

“There’s a prayer center, which will be primarily the Muslim prayer center, and there’s another multi-purpose room that’ll be for any other groups that [want to use it] for meetings,” he said.

Set to be finished in 2020, the new building will be situated at the corner of Brooklyn Street and Ward Street.

“There’s kind of a tree-filled grassy area and that’s where it’ll go,” Kohlman said. “You’ll have Hillel, you’ll have the Prayer and Meditation Center and you’ll have across the street the Parish House — so there will be this whole kind of neighborhood of spiritual life.”

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