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President's Corner

A bi-weekly column from the Office of the President

First, A University is a Place

Oct. 28, 2003 8:34 AM
I must not have been there when they were handing out the white gloves. I like things clean, of course, but cleanliness is not the first thing I notice about a place. The university is most fortunate to have custodial staff whose talents compensate for mine.

Ditto for buildings and construction. What gets me excited is what goes on inside the buildings, old or new. I am learning, however, to appreciate both maintenance and construction at a whole new level.

The trigger for my renewed attention is that we are having company. During the week before Thanksgiving, two key groups will be on campus. On Tuesday, November 18, a group of leading legislators, will be here to review the university’s progress and, primarily, to tour the university’s facilities.

On Wednesday, the Chancellor and other campus presidents will arrive for meetings. On Thursday and Friday, the State Board of Higher Education will meet on campus. Although they will spend most of their time on statewide business, they too will have a facilities tour. Naturally, we want to look our best for all of these groups, and their impressions will play a key role in any state funding we may get for projects in the future.

We are making progress. We have just accepted a very favorable bid on construction to renovate Kolstoe residence hall into suites, and we hope soon to hire a contractor for an addition to Graichen Gym. The Kolstoe project will begin shortly, funded by bonds issued in anticipation of student rent payments. We will probably have to wait for spring to begin on Graichen.

We are not entitled to get a major state project every biennium. We were fortunate to get over $750,000 for the Graichen project, given that in 2001-2003 we got even more than that to replace a boiler and accessories in the heating plant. Whether we will get funding for a major project in 2005-2007, the period for which we are planning now, remains to be seen.

The projects we are considering for our request include fieldhouse bleachers, Vangstad auditorium renovation, steam line replacement, structural repairs on several buildings, "smart classroom" renovations, and life safety and ADA upgrades. The list of candidates for state or private funding also includes a library addition, fieldhouse addition, technology building, air conditioning for several key buildings, a new technology building, and upgrades for grounds, sidewalks, and streets.

When we have sufficient student funding, we also need a student center renovation/addition and more residence hall renovations. We are working on fitness facilities in connection with other proposed projects.

We will tell our visitors about some dilemmas. First, we are losing ground on deferred maintenance estimated at $11 million in early 2002, since our repairs budget is only $130,000 per year. Second, some projects have been on the list for a decade, costs rising yearly. The Graichen project will cost double its estimate five years ago. And third, although replacing ancient steam lines is becoming critically important, universities also need visible projects that actually improve the environment.

This difficult situation makes me even more grateful for those who came before, chose a beautiful site, and built a gorgeous campus. Our goal remains to live up to that legacy.

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