Health sciences building cost raises concern

The Board of Regents gather together in a meeting with other guests to discuss campus information in the Hardin building at Midwestern State University on Nov. 9, 2017. Photo by Harlie David

The Board of Regents gather together in a meeting with other guests to discuss campus information in the Hardin building at Midwestern State University on Nov. 9, 2017. Photo by Harlie David

Kyle Owen, associate vice president for facilities services, presented his report to the Board of Regents on the status of the new health sciences and human services building — and the cost was a bit more than he expected.

On Nov. 9, Owen announced that the October bids for the new building were about $7.5 million over budget. He said the coastal hurricanes increased the demand for construction, pushing costs up from the original $30 million estimated.

The first version of the new health sciences building was cut back due to increased construction costs.

“He really concentrated on wanting to preserve the interior for the students, so he looked at modifying the exterior to be able to save the dollars,” Owen said in the meeting. “One of the things we’ll end up having to eliminate is this large eastern face. We will still end up having glass, but it’ll include more MSU brick.”

The four-story atrium also had its own issues. According to Owen, it’s expensive to do this, so the solution was to downsize it to two stories with the benefit of about 5,000 square feet of additional collaboration space for student use. He also suggested eliminating part of a terra cotta wall from the west entrance and replace it with either stucco or MSU brick and eliminating the penthouse floor/peaked roof feature, one of the glass walls on the east side and the colonnade on the south side.

“We [the contractors and I] will meet as a group the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to review the changes. At that point, we expect them to have about $4.5 million to $5 million in savings identified,” Owen said. “If they do, we’ll ask them to go ahead and move forward. If we still aren’t at that level, then unfortunately our only option is to go in and redesign and rebid.”

HHS gunn

A completely new redesign would add six months to the construction timeline, but Owen said he doesn’t think it’ll come to that. Even with this, there will still be a small delay in construction — he predicted late January as the earliest date for an actual price contract.

“The glass is half full. I think we’ll get there. I spoke with the contractor and he thinks there are some more drastic things he could do to save some more money, but he’s still looking in the $4.5 million to $5 million range,” Owen said.

University President Suzanne Shipley and several Board members voiced their concerns, including Sam Sanchez, chairman; R. Caven Crosnoe, vice chairman; F. Lynwood Givens.

“It’s going to look very different than what we’re seeing [here]. We’re talking about 20 to 25 percent variation,” Givens said. “I don’t think there’s anything bribing us to do it in a hurry, and I am concerned that, from a legal and ethical perspective, that we ought to get together and design what we want. I don’t like this jockeying around.”

Sanchez echoed Givens’ comments.

“A big part of what was presented to the Board [originally] was an aesthetic appeal and some of those changes [here] are dramatic,” Sanchez said. “I think, as a Board, we would definitely want to see those changes in effect. It’s hard to imagine all of these changes. There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ there.”

Shipley called the situation “very disappointing.”

“I don’t have an opinion on whether we move forward or not because it’s very disappointing. Why does an architect design a building that can’t come in at bid?” Shipley said. “We’re left without the design that sold us on this project. We’re in a hard spot, so I welcome the wisdom of the Board on this.”

Owen and the Board members agreed to meet in early December to see new architectural renderings of a potential redesign, given the budget changes.

Kyle Williams, director of athletics, speaks out at the Board of Regents meeting in the Hardin building at Midwestern State University to discuss campus information about the sports teams on Nov. 9, 2017. Photo by Harlie David

Kyle Williams, now director of athletics, speaks out at the Board of Regents meeting. Photo by Harlie David

OTHER AGENDA ITEMS:

Also on the agenda, board members

  • Approved the following change in the admissions policies: the automatic acceptance of high school students in top 25 percent from an accredited high school if they graduated from high school within the two years prior to the academic year for which admission is sought and submitted a complete application before the deadline
  • Introduced Kyle Williams as new director of athletics
  • Authorized administration to add two full-time equipment positions in enrollment management as presented and authorized a budget increase not to exceed $125,000 for search expenses and to fund the positions and office expenses during fiscal year 2018 as presented
  • Received an update on enrollment — 45 percent of students admitted to MSU do not meet our acceptance standards, which poses a problem for enrollment; 9.5 percent of our students from this past spring did not re-enroll in the fall, of which about 25 percent of those students come from the allied health department
  • Changed the policy 4.146 regarding naming rooms and buildings
  • Presented research from Laura Sorge and Francine Baron on impact of first year experience
  • Discussed how learning communities have positively impacted our retention rates with Kristen Garrison, associate vice president of undergraduate education and assessment
  • Approved changes to administration selection process policy 2.31: according to the Board of Regents agenda, this policy requires the Board to evaluate the president’s performance at its first regular meeting each calendar year. The administration recommended that the policy be modified to require the performance review to occur no later than the May meeting each calendar year. This action will provide greater flexibility while continuing to ensure an annual review.
  • Approved changes to ethics policy 3.314 for employees of MSU: Modifications to this policy are recommended as required by Senate Bill 20 passed during the 84th Texas Legislative Session.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, Kyle Owen was identified as the chair of the Executive Committee. Sam Sanchez is the chair of the Executive Committee. The Wichitan regrets this error.

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