After a number of weeks collecting information and discussing options among the college’s leadership team (our vice presidents, some director level staff members, and me), and consulting with our board leadership, we agreed upon a list of capital projects for the upcoming months. The projects are listed below in this article from our website. After this article, I’ll attempt to describe our reasoning:
This summer, Lakeland’s main campus will see a number of improvements as the college prepares for the 2013-14 academic year and beyond. In May, Lakeland’s Board of Trustees approved spending up to $1.7 million to address several campus upgrades and deferred maintenance projects. Trustees approved the work thanks to strong fiscal management and cost containment by the college’s employees over the past several years, which included good stewardship of the college’s resources, including donations to the annual fund.
Projects that are time sensitive to weather conditions or the upcoming fall semester are in the process of being scheduled with the anticipation they will be completed by late August and early September.
The biggest change will involve Lakeland’s information technology department moving from the basement of W.A. Krueger Hall to the ground floor of Brotz Hall. The move will provide IT with a centralized location and will support the purchase of new servers and other hardware upgrades that will lead to technology improvements across campus. Students will have better access to the campus help desk, and the IT staff will have a more productive area in which to work and collaborate. The vacated area in WAK will be used for office and meeting space. Wireless Internet coverage on the main campus will be improved, providing greater wireless signal strength. The updates will help support a campus with a growing number of students who have multiple mobile devices.
Two other significant IT projects include:
- Construction of a classroom/computer lab in Chase in the space currently housing the Lakeland College Mirror and Spectrum. The lab will be dedicated for use by students in the college’s computer science program, giving the college a recruiting edge. The Mirror/Spectrum offices will be relocated to House 10 on Prof Row–the former home of Learning Tree Academy.
- Audio/video technology upgrades in Old Main classrooms to support learning, the latest in a long-term project to update technology in all campus and center classrooms.
Other projects slated for the summer include:
- Two significant athletics projects–construction of dugouts at the softball diamond and installation of power and data cables at the baseball diamond. The latter will open the door for live game internet coverage of baseball games for parents and fans. The previously announced wrestling room, located in the former GT Graphics space, is on track for completion in August.
- Re-surfacing and re-paving parts of South Drive and West Drive and the Grosshuesch parking lot.
- Replacing the roof on the Suites and masonry repairs at Arthur M. Krueger to address water issues.
- New carpeting in Morland and Kurtz houses, Muehlmeier Hall, Nash and Suites. Carpet replacement for the lower level of Esch Library is slated for replacement between the fall-spring semester break.
- Replacement of some of the windows in WAK, the first part of a four-year plan to replace all the building’s windows.
- Exterior door replacement on the east and north sides of the Esch Library.
- New boiler and controls for heating Verhulst, which will provide acceptable comfort levels year-round. This is part of a long-term plan to decentralize the college’s buildings from the main boiler, which is old and inefficient.
This is news because typically in a given year we might spend $300,000 to $500,000 on capital/infrastructure repairs or improvements. Those dollar amounts are allocated out of our annual operating budget, and the capital projects might include necessary repairs due to passage of time (roofs, sidewalks, replacement equipment for our wastewater treatment plant, etc.), purchasing new equipment (computer servers or other IT equipment, lawn tractors, etc.), or relatively minor building projects (e.g., a new deck for Ley Chapel, constructing new office spaces). Many of the expenditures sound somewhat boring, unless you are a member of our facilities department–obtaining a new tractor or carpet cleaning equipment is like Christmas for them.
During some previous years, we delayed some of these regular capital expenditures and used the annual allocated capital budgets for other, non-capital expenses. This year, in agreement with our board, we resolved to ensure that we used those allocated dollars for their intended purposes–capital projects. The board also agreed to release some of our capital reserves fund to support these projects. Our capital reserve fund is a separate account built out of our annual operating surpluses (in other words, at the end of each fiscal year, any leftover cash is transferred into the capital reserve fund and saved for later–think of it as a rainy day fund for equipment and construction).
When deciding which projects to do this year, we tried to strike a balance among projects that benefited teaching and learning, internal operations, recruiting, and the overall student experience. The new computer lab in Chase and the upgraded classroom technology in Old Main were no-brainers. As was the complete renovation of our IT department–without a stable and scalable infrastructure, advances in the use of technology, both in operations and for the benefit of our students, would be impossible. These projects were deemed highest priority.
The baseball, softball, and wrestling “upgrades” will help improve our student athletes’ experiences, and in the case of the data feed from the baseball field, families and fans who cannot attend games will be able to follow the Muskies online. We are one of the only colleges that did not stream games online. The women’s softball team (holy cow, look at that roster!) definitely needed improvements to their softball field, and I’ve mentioned the wrestling facility in an earlier post.
Anyone who has driven around campus will be familiar with our potholes. Why is resurfacing the roads an important project? Well, not only will sooner or later someone break an axle or knock their wheels out of alignment, but one of the first things families of prospective students do on their first visit is take a drive around campus. Our roads make a bad first impression, and that affects how people view us. You may disagree that this is important, but people make snap judgments based on appearances and initial experiences. Crumbling roads and parking lots are seen indicators of problems elsewhere on campus.
Repairs to the roofs on the Suites, and the windows on A.M. Krueger, will keep water out of the buildings. This is required regular maintenance, a bit overdue, for some of our older buildings. Nothing extraordinary, but still important.
Beginning replacement of the W.A. Krueger (administration) windows and the boiler and controls on Verhulst (art and music) are important steps in energy conservation–projects what will allow us to eventually save more money than we spend.
Some projects that didn’t make this first priority list? We want to start replacing mechanical keys and our disparate and unreliable key card systems with one uniform swipe card system for all of our buildings, and hopefully use the same card for meal card swipes, too. This will be an expensive project, but will improve security and safety, save time and effort in maintaining door systems, and reduce student and staff frustration. However, the complexity of this project has pushed it off for a bit. We hope to revisit it later this fiscal year and begin that project in earnest as soon as we can.
We won’t get all of the projects done before the end of the summer, but we will finish several of them, and the rest we will try to squeeze in before the snow falls.
There, that’s more than you probably wanted to know. And again, you may not agree with every decision, but as a team we did the best we could to come to a consensus on these projects. There are many, many important needs across campus, and while we can’t address them all at once, we will address them as promptly and efficiently as we can.