Editorial: State must fund critical MU renovations

With three buildings in need of extensive repairs, state funding is imperative in putting the projects in motion.

McKee Gymnasium was built in 1922. Yankee Stadium began construction that same year. Since then, Yankee Stadium has been renovated regularly, seriously remodeled, demolished and completely reconstructed. McKee, however, has remained relatively the same.

McKee, Waters and Mumford halls rated 0.8, 0.8 and 0.5 on the Facilities Conditions Needs Index, respectively, which means that 80, 80 and 50 percent of the buildings need to be replaced. Renovating the three buildings are expected to cost $15 million, $22 million and $24 million, respectively.

These buildings are only three of 30 MU buildings that require critical renovation, and plans for these projects cannot be drawn up until the necessary funding has been received. Earlier this month, the state finally allocated money to renovate Lafferre Hall, which had been the most critical campus building on the FCNI at 0.91. It’s a start, but the backlog of needed repairs that’s built up and been largely ignored by Jefferson City has become staggering.

It is imperative that the state of Missouri grant the university the necessary funding to properly renovate or replace these buildings.

As Gov. Jay Nixon asked in a news release, how are students expected to prepare for success in the 21st century in buildings that were built early in the 20th? The fact that some of these buildings, such as McKee, have only received regular maintenance repairs to keep the building structurally intact is ludicrous. As indicated by the FCNI, these buildings need extensive, long-overdue updates.

Have we forgotten what happened at University Village? After Mackey Mitchell Architects recommended a demolition of University Village in 2008, MU completed nearly 4,500 work orders beginning in 2009 just to keep the complex up. But the maintenance work only temporarily relieved several structural and facility needs at University Village. What came after was a balcony collapse that killed Columbia fireman Bruce Britt.

This should be a wake-up call for the state: Providing funds to extensively renovate buildings is not only important for learning purposes, but for safety purposes as well. Students and university officials lobbied for years to procure funds to renovate Lafferre Hall. As the largest educational institution in the state, we shouldn’t have to lobby for years in order to receive the funding we need to keep the rain out of our buildings.

Granting MU the funding it needs would not only benefit the university and its students, but the state as a whole. The projects provide immediate, localized economic stimulus to Missouri businesses by hiring architects, engineers and construction workers to design, plan and carry them out.

The continued cuts to higher education funding has lead to MU bolstering its fundraising efforts. The university announced earlier this year that it had broken the record for most funds raised in a single year with $160 million raised during fiscal year 2014. MU is a public university. We should not have to break fundraising records just to provide students, faculty and staff with the resources and infrastructure they need.

In March, it was reported that the university has a staggering list of deferred maintenance projects totaling nearly $500 million. Having a small wish list of construction projects is normal for an institution of our size. Having a list of this magnitude is ridiculous.

As the state’s land-grant institution, MU’s entire purpose is to serve the state of Missouri and its citizens, but it can’t effectively live up to that mission with buildings that are in such detrimental state.

After the Academic Hall fire of 1892, Board of Curators President G.F. Rothwell famously wrote, “Let these columns stand. Let them stand a thousand years.” In the case of McKee Gymnasium, Waters Hall and other critically deficient buildings, letting them stand a thousand years will take some work.

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