Construction of the new facility is expected to begin in early 2013.
Individuals who work in the SIU’s claims department, all members of the Seafarers-affiliated United Industrial Workers (UIW), now are one step closer to accomplishing their mission on a daily basis in the comfort of a pristine, state-of-the-art facility.
A symbolic ground-breaking ceremony signaling the start of construction for the new claims department building at the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education (PHC) was held Sept. 12 at the Piney Point, Md.-based campus. The ceremony was attended by union officials, trustees, guests and rank-and-file members who earlier had attended the 2012 Quinquennial Convention of the Seafarers International Union of North America at the school.
Actual construction of the new structure, which has been in the planning stages for some two years, will commence in early 2013, according to PHC Vice President Don Nolan. Nolan said the new three-story 36,000 square-foot structure – which will be situated on the same tract of land on which the current claims building sits – should be completed within the next year to 18 months. Once open, the new complex will house some 40 individuals who provide assistance and information regarding claims and health benefits to active SIU members, retirees and dependents, as well as to members of SIU-affiliated unions.
Office space in the facility also will be utilized by members of the SIU Medical Department, according to Nolan. Some 12,000 square feet of the new structure will be set aside for future expansion, he added. Eventually, this space will be chartered to tenant organizations that are affiliated with the union.
While the new facility will represent a welcomed and much-needed upgrade for many, it undeniably has nostalgic implications for others. One such individual is SIU Secretary-
Treasurer David Heindel.
“The old claims building had and still has a great deal of sentimental value to folks who went through Piney Point during the 60s, 70s and early 80s,” said Heindel, who attended the school in in 1973 and was a member of Class 137. “It was the mess hall during those days.
“That’s where everyone gathered to socialize and of course have three squares a day,” he continued. “It was sort of the place that everybody met…. Aside from the old theater and bowling alley, it was really the only thing we had to look forward to. Everything else involved going to class and doing details such as picking up cigarette butts.
“So to see the old building go will be like losing a piece of history for some of the older trainees,” Heindel concluded. “But we must step aside and allow progress to take place. I’m sure the tenants of the new facility will appreciate the new fresh surroundings and state-of-the-art systems that will be available to assist our members’ claims needs.”