Trustees Hesitate On New Auxiliary Facilities

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A committee of the Ohio University Board of Trustees decided they needed more time to consider a multi-million dollar facility plan that would consolidate several university departments.

The University Resources Committee was presented a plan during its meeting on Thursday that site planners said would free up valuable space on the main campus and at The Ridges.

Shawna Bolin, of University Planning and Space Management, explained to the committee members that a total of 83,000 gross square feet would be a part of the Auxiliary Services building.

Two buildings would be a part of the plan, with a local building on West Union Street near the Habitat for Humanity ReStore that would hold office space for Printing Services, Mail Services and Central Receiving, among other related services.

The other building would be built on the land at the OU Airport and would be specifically for storage of university property.

The facilities would be a first step in a 10-year comprehensive master plan, which was also discussed on Thursday at a meeting of the Joint Academic and Resources Committee. Part of the master plan includes an inventory of available space on campus, as well as analysis of space that isn’t being utilized as efficiently as possible, Bolin said. The building at the airport would allow offices to be opened up for staff and other uses.

But trustees weren’t as convinced of the need for the facility once they saw the price tag.

According to planning estimates, the West Union Street facility would cost $11.3 million and the airport facility would cost $5.4 million, for a total of $16.7 million. The money would be coming from the Auxiliary Services capital reserves, as well as new operations such as a surplus store Bolin said would be included in the work done at the West Union facility.

The resolution that would have been put up for a vote at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting would have approved $1.6 million to begin design work on the buildings, but trustees said they wanted to come back at another meeting in June after questions had been answered about the necessity of the facility.

“I’m wondering if this is $16.7 million that needs to be priority,” said trustee Peggy Viehweger.

Fellow trustee David Wolfort expressed his confusion as to why the price was so high, considering the land on which the facilities would be built is already owned by the university.

He calculated the price of the storage square footage at $189 per square foot.

“I would regard that as pretty hefty,” Wolfort said.

But the benefits of moving departments and storage to outside facilities would help bring more usable space to the central university areas, Bolin said.

The move to a new office facility, which would be 50,000 gross square feet, would allow better humidity control for digital productions included in printing services as well. Moving storage to the remote airport location would allow for expansion later on, according to Bolin.

“This (auxiliary facility) would vacate space at the Ridges,” Bolin said. “We see a different purpose for The Ridges facility.”

But not only would the move bring more space for other university uses, Auxiliary Services would be able to move into a building that wasn’t in need of major repairs, as some of the buildings being used for the auxiliary services do now, according to officials.

“This is not all about storage,” said Gwyn Scott, associate vice president of Auxiliary Service. “We have three very needy operations at The Ridges.”

The committee decided to take the item off the board agenda despite Stephen Golding, Vice President for Finance and Administration, advising the committee that delaying the start of the Auxiliary project would delay parts of the comprehensive master plan.

“The domino effect will be…there will be projects across the campus that will be held up until this project is completed,” Golding said.

The Board of Trustees will be voting on other construction projects, including funding for the Grover Center expansion, a culinary renovation to Jefferson Hall and plans for the opening of Bobcat Lane.