Gas leak leaves dancers, gymnasts without heat

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 15, 2010

NATCHEZ — Natchez Gymnastics Association President Kim Strawbridge can attest it’s no fun bundling up indoors.

A gas leak at Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center prompted the City of Natchez to shut the heat off last week, forcing Strawbridge and her pupils at Natchez Gymnastics to train in less than favorable conditions.

“We closed the first weekend (the heat) was out, but I can’t continue to close,” Strawbridge said Thursday. “The kids are dressing really warm, and luckily (classes) are 45 minutes.”

Email newsletter signup

Natchez Gymnastics, which has rented space at Margaret Martin for 18 years, also offers cheerleading classes to children age 2 and older. Strawbridge said portable heaters have eased the situation, but not much.

“We have two little electric heaters, and you thaw your little feet and hands out when pass by them,” Strawbridge said.

“My late classes have been really miserable. You can see yourself breathing on the inside of the gym, but something’s going to happen. God is going to take care of it.”

Natchez Ballet Academy, also housed in Margaret Martin, is staving off the cold too, said Director Mignon Reid.

“I did cancel a couple of days last week because I didn’t have the time to do anything about it,” Reid said. “I’ve put plastic around the windows to make sure no air was coming in and plugged in electric heaters to make sure we’d be OK.”

Both Strawbridge and Reid have kept in close contact with the City of Natchez, which owns Margaret Martin. Current plans are to test the pressure of the gas pipes, Building Inspector Paul Dawes said.

“We cannot turn the gas back on until we test the pressure in the gas pipes,” Dawes said. “We found beaucoup leaks in the boiler room only, and I don’t think that we can isolate a section of pipe that’s being used and get a good pressure test on it.”

Dawes said the city is now exploring ways to restore heat to only the rented portions of the building.

“We’re looking at routing (pipes) to the individual gas unit and eliminating all that internal piping inside the building instead of making all that old stuff work again.”

Dawes, who is currently out of town at a building inspection training session in Oxford, said he hopes to get some heat circulating through Margaret Martin sooner rather than later.

“We’re looking at a few different options, but it’s nothing that can’t be done,” Dawes said. “It’s a matter of time and money.”