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Spending Bill Could Ease Maintenance Problems

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A proposed spending plan by Gov. Bobby Jindal could ease some of the maintenance problems plaguing the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Though the proposed appropriation for UL Lafayette won’t nearly cover all costs for deferred maintenance, the $5.7 million proposal would be a start.

“ If we were to get $5 or $6 million, we would have a lot of needs taken care of and the allocation would be a step in the right direction,” said Bill Crist, director of UL Lafayette’s Physical Plant, which includes maintenance projects on campus.

Crist said an independent consulting firm from Boston was hired in 2003 by the UL System to inspect the conditions of its campuses. The firm deemed that UL Lafayette had more than $130 million in maintenance deficiencies with $70 million attributed to critical projects.

The House Appropriations Committee yesterday passed an amended House Bill 46 which now directs $75 million to fund Major Repairs for Higher Education Facilities. The governor’s original proposal included $80 million to help public colleges and universities with maintenance that has been deferred because of a lack of funding. A state assessment identified $1.8 billion in deferred maintenance needs for Louisiana’s colleges and universities.

Many of UL Lafayette’s maintenance projects included in this proposal are related to air conditioning chillers, boilers, duct cleaning and plumbing fixture replacements. The clock tower at Stephens Hall would also be replaced under the proposal.

“ When you have an older campus like we have with some of our buildings dating back to 1901, you’re going to obviously have maintenance issues,” said Crist. “For some of these buildings, air conditioning was installed in the 50s and 60s. Those units are now antiquated and inefficient,. Our biggest needs are to replace this equipment and make the environmental conditions on campus better.”

Each of the UL System’s universities has submitted a prioritized project list, which has been reviewed by the System staff and the Board of Regents. In total, 64 critical need projects have been identified by the eight UL System campuses that include fire alarm system upgrades, HVAC system and boiler replacements, electrical and plumbing work, roof repairs and waterproofing with a priority given to classroom upgrades.