Ever wonder why the second floor of Payson Smith Hall had lockers?
So did university officials.
“They were here when I first started 30 years ago,” said USM spokesman Bob Caswell. “They were old then.”
That’s why the lockers were the first thing to go when the school decided to spruce up the 50-year-old academic building this year.
“It’s an attempt to make some improvements that can be seen,” said Dan Gearan, project engineer for Facilities Management. Gearan is overseeing the renovation of the second floor. The rows of lockers have been gutted and will soon be replaced with benches where students can sit, plug in laptops and do homework. The bulky wooden recycling boxes in the hallways will also be recessed in the walls.
The university had intended to finish the work before the start of the semester, but they weren’t sure they had the money to do the project until the last minute.
The renovation — which is estimated to cost between $25,000 and $30,000 out of the school’s general operating budget — is part of a larger push by the university to modernize its aging facilities. USM has over $100 million in deferred maintenance across three campuses — and the number is growing, according to Bob Bertram, executive director of Facilities Management.
Maine voters in June approved a bond to fund $9.5 million in energy efficiency upgrades to campus buildings across the University of Maine System. Administrators are spreading USM’s share — $2,375,000 — across three academic buildings on the Portland and Gorham campuses. ($1,075,000 in Bailey Hall, $650,000 in the Portland Science Building, and $650,000 in Luther Bonney Hall.)
This summer the school also used proceeds from the 2008 sale of the former Portland dorm at 645 Congress Street to fund repairs and upgrades on the Gorham campus. The sale netted the school $2.1 million. Upton-Hastings and Robie-Andrews both got new roofs and Robie-Andrews also got exterior paint and brickwork. The older residence buildings got updated HVAC controls. Several buildings were outfitted with updated hot water sources so the university wouldn’t have to run the central heat plant during the summer months when fewer students are on campus.
The art studio in the basement of Robie-Andrews also received significant upgrades, but those were funded by a gift to the university.
But the Payson Smith renovation is more cosmetic than the other upgrades — and it’s coming straight out of the university’s main operating budget.
“Bailey, Luther Bonney and the Science Building got bond money. It made sense for us to use some of our E&G budget,” said Bertram. “There’s well over a hundred million dollars worth of deferred maintenance. This seemed like the most bang for your buck,” he added.
“It’s all part of making [the building] more student-friendly and accommodating the Student Success Centers,” said Susan Campbell, associate vice president for academic affairs.
“As we’ve been settling in over this past year, we kept looking at the building with Bob Bertram and [Chief Financial Officer] Dick Campbell,” she said. Campbell said they realized that the Student Success Centers should be housed in attractive areas. “Place matters,” she said.
School officials are hoping to install benches on the third floor, renovate classrooms and eventually install new windows. But they’re waiting until the end of the fiscal year next July to see how much money is left over in the operating budget. It is estimated the total renovation will cost $300,000.
“It’s really premature to even talk about that,” said Bertram. “At the very least, we’d like to do on the third floor what we’re doing on the second.”
They also hope to upgrade Bailey Hall in Gorham — the site of the other Student Success Center, she said.
“There are some discussions about what else we want to do in Bailey [Hall],” said Campbell. “I personally have an intense interest in having Bailey be a student-centered area,” she said.