Committee Votes For Recreational Facility Security, Increased Room and Board
The Penn State trustees' Committee on Finance and Capital Planning held a brief public session this morning in Hershey, rapidly approving a number of construction projects.
Among the approved action items included controversial upgrades to security at three recreational facilities on campus: White Building, McCoy Natatorium, and Rec Hall.
In following with a Freeh Report recommendation, the university adopted a police in July 2012 stipulating that those facilities are only useable by those with a valid university student or faculty/staff/trustee/retiree identification card. The project adds turnstiles to the three buildings and new space for support staff who will check identification.
The initial cost of the project, which was tabled at last November's finance committee meeting, remains at $7.5 million. However, the ongoing yearly operating costs of the upgrade were significantly decreased after student leader Kevin Horne voiced concerns over the initial number of $420,000 per year. Horne, the GPSA President and a member of the Finance Committee, spoke on behalf of the three student governments at that meeting.
"We're at a place where we can't find a $100,000 in the budget to hire a CAPS counselor so students' mental health needs are met, and we're about to spend $420,000 a year just to say we're keeping townies out of the gym," Horne said.
Horne was happy to see that the new version of the project is down to $185,000 per year in operating costs. The original costs were $150,000 at the White Building, $95,000 per year at the Natatorium, and $175,000 at Rec Hall. The version passed today has those staffing costs at $50,000 for White, $15,000 for the Natatorium, and $120,000 for Rec Hall.
"The students are pleased with the Board and Administration's efforts to reduce costs on the controlled access projects and for working with us over recent weeks," GPSA President and Finance Committee member Kevin Horne said. "We wish it had been brought to the board with the $220,000 reduction and that it didn't take a student resolution to get that number down, but that's the role of this committee and the reason student representation and shared governance is so important."
At last night's University Park Undergraduate Meeting, the student assembly voted 29-3 in favor of a resolution supporting the facility upgrades following the cost modifications. “We’re alleviating the burden of students having to pay for this, making this a lot more cost affective and common sense,” student Ryan Valencia said
The finance committee also voted in favor of a 3.05 percent room and board increase. For a double room and third-level meal plan, that means a $155 increase to $5,230.
On the construction front, the committee passed a total of $151 million in projects that includes East Halls renovations ($65.1 million), a new building at North Halls ($33.6 million), the third phases of the Intramural Building expansion ($29.3 million), renovations of the Kostos Building at Hazleton ($15.5 million), and the $7.5 million recreational facility security upgrades.
The committee breezed through the agenda items, passing each unanimously. The trustees held a four-hour webinar call two weeks ago to get the discussion out of the way prior to Thursday's meeting.
As always, it is up to the full board to officially approve these items at tomorrow's meeting.