President’s mansion renovations to cost $1 million

By: jackiereedy

Feb 05 2010

Category: Uncategorized

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(PHOTO, Jackie Reedy, jackiereedy@gmail.com)

President’s mansion renovations to cost $1 million

February 4, 2010 by TIFFANY STEVENS Filed under Economy, News

The University’s President’s house will benefit from renovations estimated at nearly $1 million, according to University officials.

As it stands now, the President’s house, located at 570 Prince Ave., is only used for entertaining guests and for hosting events. University President Michael Adams and his family have not lived in the house for nine years, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The renovations will largely include additions to make the house more accessible to people with disabilities.

“The building isn’t handicap accessible and hasn’t been for some period of time,” said Danny Sniff, campus architect.

Major renovations will include an elevator, a new heating system, updates to the kitchen area and more storage areas.

“We’ve needed that elevator for years, and we’ve needed that furnace for years, and we put it off and put it off and we can’t put it off any longer,” Sniff said. “If it’s a class in Baldwin, we can move the class, but if it’s an event, and a guy shows up in a wheelchair, we can’t move the event, and it’s just kind of embarrassing.”

Tom Jackson, vice president of public affairs, said the renovations were to make the house compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said the University had problems  accommodating disabled guests at the President’s house in the past.

“We did have a person fall there last year, so we want to avoid that at all costs,” Jackson said.

The renovations will be paid for through a mix of public and private funds. Sniff said $713,000 would come from state funds. But, Sniff said, no student fees would go toward funding the renovations.

“It’s called the President’s house, but it’s actually part of the state’s inventory. It’s no different from the Student Learning Center. It’s square footage that the state owns and has to maintain,” Sniff said. “Maintenance funds cannot be used for anything other than maintenance, by law. So it can’t be used for a furlough day. It can’t be used to hire a new faculty member. It can’t be used for any other reason but to maintain the buildings on campus.”

Renovations to the house have been criticized since an article published in the Athens Banner-Herald quoted past work order costs, Sniff said. The article cited repair costs such as $365 to fix a broken toilet handle, $1,775.83 to repair a cracked mirror and $50,533 to paint the east side of the building.

Jackson said the quoted figures were due to unclear records sent to the Banner-Herald. The toilet handle mentioned had been accidentally included in the open records request and was part of a work order in the President’s Office.

“The $365 quoted was a total of several things fixed in the building. The actual cost of repairing that toilet in the President’s Office was $69,” he said.

Ralph Johnson, associate vice president at the Physical Plant, also said the open records in question were flawed.

“What was sent over was just a brief description of the work order. When we send over a work order, it has a brief description of 40 characters,” Johnson said. “Often when we get requests to go over and do work at the President’s house, they have a list of things that need to be taken care of. The total cost of the mirror replacement was $287. The rest of the order were other parts of the work order, including replacing some handrails on the stairs, replacing a sign that had been vandalized on the street and some other things.”

Johnson said the fee quoted for painting the east side of the building was correct, but it included fees for removing and disposing of hazardous materials as well.

“Because of the age of the President’s house, many of the coats that had been used in the past included lead-based paint,” he said. “We’ve gotten to the point where it’s peeling so fast that we need to do what’s called an abatement, where you have to peel off all the layers of paint to get to the original wood.”

Johnson said the open records reports were compiled quickly and should have been checked over more thoroughly.

“It was requested last Thursday, and the staff turned it around in a quick time frame,” Johnson said.

Jackson said the University had been nationally recognized for its work in historic renovation and planned to continue to operate and maintain its five historic buildings.

“While it does cost money, I know the community would be concerned if the University let these buildings fall into disrepair,” he said.

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