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Work to begin on Stevens Hall

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
Posted by Eric Killelea; Williston Herald

Renovations to Stevens Hall at Williston State College are on schedule and updating of on-campus buildings continues.

Stevens Hall, built in 1966 through community funds, is the centerpiece of campus and has never seen a major remodel in its lifetime. Mechanical and electrical systems are beyond their life expectancy and several areas of the building fail to meet building codes.

James Foertsch, vice president for business services at WSC, said while the facilities were well suited to a transfer institution when built, they are ill suited to the college program and service needs of the 21st century.

The college has hired JLG Architects to design the updates. The group designed the WSC Frontier Hall, the new main residence hall, which was built three years ago and provides housing to 170 students.

Main points of the renovation will address: re-allocating classroom sizes to match projected classroom ratios, significant deferred maintenance costs, addressing ADA accessibility issues and consolidating faculty teaming spaces and providing functional offices.

"The main goal is to improve student learning spaces and create flexible spaces that can be modified at minimal cost as instructional methods evolve," Foertsch said.

Renovation  will also bring the building up to code, installing new plumbing, piping and removing asbestos.

"The behind-the-scenes work will make the college a long lasting facility for the state," Foertsch said.

The total renovation cost for Stevens Hall is estimated at $12 million, Foertsch said. The gross maximum price should be finalized at the end of December, locking the college and its architect and construction crews into a cemented contract agreement.

Earlier this year, the North Dakota Legislature passed a new budget for higher education, appropriating $11.6 million for the project, Foertsch said. Additional funding was acquired through the state's capital project contingency pool. The funds are appropriated out of any moneys in the general fund in the state treasury and from special funds and other income to the state university system office.

WSC presented the renovation project to the state board of higher education wanting to gain access into the pool, Foertsch said. In August, the board approved the allocation of $500,820 to the college's favor.

Kayla McKeil, director for marketing at WSC, staff is expected to remove most academic resources from Stevens Hall after final testing exams on Dec. 30 and during the winter break. The material is transferred to other on-campus buildings, including the career and technology center.

Only classrooms in the health wing and the new science addition stay active, because they're considered autonomous buildings, having separate utility systems.

Asbestos abatement is scheduled to begin in early January. Current and prospective students return for their spring semester on Jan. 14.

"There is an overwhelming feeling, but this is what we need to do to provide our students with a better experience," McKeil said. "In the grand scheme of things, this is really exciting."

Renovation on Stevens Hall means staff will be displaced for one year, having to share spaces with co-workers in other buildings. Also, students will take most of their spring semester general education courses in the CT building.

"There will be increased traffic and use in the CT building and other buildings but the goal is to minimize the affect on students," Foertsch said. "And we feel comfortable we can make it work."

Administration has heard positive comments from the students, expressing little concern and understanding that on-campus renovations are in their best interest.

The timeline for the entire project is estimated for completion January 2015.