Buildings need funds, repairs

Lindsey Reed

Roof repairs, new air conditioners and plumbing problems on campus are on a long waiting list in Frankfort.

Western has more than $60 million in deferred maintenance – or large-scale repairs to buildings – projects that have stacked up over the years.

University administrators will find out in April how much money Western will get from the state to take care of some of its problems.

Doug Ault, director of Facilities Management, said all of Kentucky’s universities have major deferred maintenance needs, making it difficult to get money for all projects.

“Historically, a lot of buildings were built in the late ’60s, and all are reaching 35 to 40 years of age,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of buildings in their life cycles that need major repairs.”

Sherron Jackson, assistant vice president for finance and equal opportunity for the Council on Post-Secondary Education, said the state has allotted $15 million in funds toward deferred maintenance in the last several biennium.

“The state provides as much money as it has available,” he said.

That money is intended to fund $30 million worth of projects after universities match the funds, he said.

Jackson said projects become deferred maintenance when they have reached their useful life span and cannot be repaired or replaced by the manufacturer.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher has recovered another $15 million to go toward deferred maintenance in the 2004-2006 biennium for high priority projects, he said.

John Osborne, vice president for campus services and facilities, said the current top priority is to improve the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in Tate Page Hall and in the fine arts center.

Tate Page was built in 1970 and FAC was built in 1973.

Mitzi Groom, music department head, said a new HVAC system is needed in FAC because the humidity is hurting the instruments, and the overall quality of air raises concerns.

“We hope all this will help everything,” she said.

The department has humidifiers on pianos and dehumidifiers in some of the rooms.

“We’re sucking out water, and putting it back in,” she said.

All of their equipment is sensitive to humidity, and mold grows at certain degrees of humidity, she said.

The capital plan for the two academic buildings lists the project at $1.6 million, Osborne said.

“We don’t get enough money from the state to do the projects annually,” he said.

Tate Page and FAC are also in need of roof work and window replacements, he said.

Total work needed in the two buildings totals about $3.5 million.

Osborne said the $1.6 million would go toward the most immediate needs in the two buildings.

The university also has a multi-year electrical infrastructure project to redistribute power on campus and replace lines that have exceeded their life cycles.

“Our recent power outage was inconvenient, but a manageable crisis,” he said.

Construction on the third phase of an electrical distribution project costs $3.7 million.

If the state doesn’t give a direct allocation, Western will have to look at getting a deferred maintenance match.

Osborne said electrical upgrades could take up to 10 years before the infrastructure is where it needs to be.

Completion of all the phases of the electrical renovations total $13 million, he said.

The second phase of the electrical project has already been funded and will begin this spring on 15th Street and Big Red Way.

The upgrades are so extensive because nothing has been done in the last 20 to 25 years to improve it, Osborne said.

The university gives a list of projects in the pool for deferred maintenance and that number usually exceeds what the state will match, Ault said.

Other top priorities include replacing the HVAC system in the Environmental Sciences and Technology Building and replacing the gas boiler at the Central Steam Plant.

Replacing the elevators in Helm-Cravens Library is also a priority.

The current elevators are 30 years old, and most elevators get replaced after 20 to 25 years, Ault said.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected]