In the coming years, Northwest College leaders hope to improve the Orendorff and Math and Science buildings, replace the air handling units on the Cabre Gym and upgrade the campus’ electrical …
In the coming years, Northwest College leaders hope to improve the Orendorff and Math and Science buildings, replace the air handling units on the Cabre Gym and upgrade the campus’ electrical service. But plans to restore the college’s iconic carillon have been pushed back — and state budget constraints could delay other projects as well.
At its May 11 meeting, the NWC Board of Trustees reviewed the college’s major maintenance projects list, which the state requires the institution to do annually. The list defines the college’s maintenance priorities and their scope and costs for the next biennium. The board reviews and votes on the list, which is submitted to the state’s construction department for state funding considerations.
Not on the list is the restoration of the carillon. In November 2017, plans to renovate the tower sparked a debate over the $280,000 price tag to address foundation, brick and concrete issues and to also perform work on sidewalks and landscaping in the mall area that surrounds the tower.
Initially believing that the cost was solely related to repairing the carillon, two trustees questioned spending so much money on a structure that serves no functional purpose for students. Proponents, meanwhile, said the carillon adds to the collegiate feel of the campus and called it a key historical landmark. The carillon’s significance, they argued, meant it shouldn’t be torn down, and with the structure deteriorating, it could become a safety issue. At the next board meeting in December 2017, NWC leaders clarified the larger scope of the project and said the $280,000 figure was an "up to" amount that likely would not be reached.
At this month’s meeting, Trustee John Housel asked why the project wasn’t on the list of major maintenance projects, considering the safety issues that were discussed when the project was first proposed.
“There’s seemed to be a sense of urgency to it,” Housel said.
NWC Vice President for Administrative Services and Finance Lisa Watson said the safety issues were “elevated” but not “urgent.”
Speaking after the meeting, Watson explained NWC had discussions with state officials after the maintenance on the carillon was identified as a need. The state recommended the project be rolled into a mall improvement project. With a number of expensive and important maintenance projects to be done on campus, priority was given to other projects, since the carillon is basically structurally sound and unlikely to become urgent for another five to 10 years.
In April, Gov. Mark Gordon froze funding for general fund contracts greater than $100,000. Since the state’s general fund pays for major maintenance at NWC, the decision could impact future maintenance work on campus.
However, the governor’s order doesn’t apply to projects contracted prior to April 15. So, some maintenance projects on campus from the previous biennium are proceeding.
That includes the replacement of NWC’s aging electrical infrastructure. The City of Powell has been pushing the college to replace the infrastructure; currently, the city must maintain equipment just to supply the college with lower voltage lines, while other areas of the city converted to higher voltage equipment long ago.
The project is to be completed over three phases, with one $400,000 phase each summer. The first phase began May 11 and was included in the fiscal year 2019 to 2020 list; the next two phases are listed for fiscal years 2021 and 2022.
The college will also proceed with improvements to its irrigation system. That effort began in April and will move sprinklers away from buildings to protect walls and foundations.
Some 2019-20 projects were revised, including a planned $225,000 replacement of the air handling units on the Cabre Gym. The bids came in over budget, so the school plans to rebid the units in fiscal year 2021.
Other projects identified for fiscal year 2021 include $50,000 worth of improvements to the Orendorff Building — such as replacing carpet and new paint — and a major renovation project estimated to cost $800,000, if approved. Improvements to the Science and Math Building proposed for the same fiscal year are estimated to cost $130,000.
A second phase of renovations to the Orendorff Building is on the list for fiscal year 2022, estimated to cost $960,000.
Three projects for fiscal year 2020 were canceled, including design and installation of pressure backflow preventers, which had a total cost of $180,000. Replacement of boilers at the Center for Training and Development on the west campus were also canceled. The college is looking at various options for future lab space, and it’s not clear how much the center will be utilized.
(Editor's note: This version of the story has been updated to reflect that the $280,000 carillon project also involved work on the surrounding mall and not just on the tower itself.)