Eagan firm linked to explosion has contract with school district

   An Eagan firm facing questions from federal investigators for its role in an explosion that killed two people and injured nine more at a Minneapolis school was awarded a contract worth nearly $700,000 last April to help renovate two District 196 schools.
   Master Mechanical Inc., of 1027 Gemini Road, Eagan, was awarded a contract for HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) as part of major construction projects at the Valley Middle and Southview Elementary schools, according to school records. The value of the contract is $641,300.
   The Eagan company has faced inquiries from federal investigators for its role in an explosion at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis Aug. 2. Master Mechanical, working as a contractor for Center Point Energy, was at the school moving a gas meter on the morning of the blast, according to investigators.
   “The gas company wants meters to be on the outside of the building so they can read them,” said NTSB spokesman Christopher Hart. “The meter was inside the building.”
   At a media conference, Hart, an experienced Washington, D.C., attorney and federal administrator, described some of the information investigators are seeking.
   “They want to know about the condition of pipes and valves in the building,” Hart said. “They want to know about the fatigue of the two workers involved, the father and son involved.”
   The Eagan company is named on a number of mechanical permits issued in the cities of Eagan and Apple Valley. A search of the cities’ permits databases shows 107 mechanical permits issued to Master Mechanical in Eagan since 1999. The company is named on 32 permits issued by Apple Valley since 2000.

District 196 awards contracts       The District 196 school board Sept. 11 awarded more than $2.5 million worth of contracts related to fortifying entrances at the Thomas Lake, Greenleaf, and Westview elementary schools.
      The contracts signal a shift from open community schools, where parents and visitors were welcomed for public events, to more restrictive environments where many of the students do not live in the communities where the schools are located.
   At Thomas Lake Elementary, for example, neighbors whose children had outgrown the school used to continue to visit for traditions such as the school’s annual Halloween parade, an event where students would parade the hallways in their Halloween costumes. Now, at the school, not only must parents and other visitors be screened at entry by having their driver’s licenses and personal information scanned into a database, the Halloween parade, as well as most other volunteer opportunities, has been eliminated. Abdisalam Wilwal, an Eagan man who, in a federal civil lawsuit, admitted to being on a terrorist watch list lives in an apartment complex next to the elementary school. 
      The construction work will place physical barriers to visitors at elementary schools, fortifying other recently enacted security measures at the schools. Construction will be starting this fall and will require changes in the schools’ entrances and routines to accommodate the construction.
      There were 68 bids for the 24 contracts awarded. Only one of the contracts, about $60,000 worth of flooring, was awarded to an Eagan firm, according the school board documents. The largest of the contracts, $582,300 for plumbing and heat piping, went to a Mora firm. The next largest, $436,000 for masonry work, went to a Minneapolis firm.
      In addition to the $2.5million awarded Sept. 11, the school board awarded about $1.5 million in smaller contracts on Sept. 25.