Kulongoski tours buildings at PSU in need of maintenance

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski toured Portland State Monday, getting a first hand look at the drastic deferred maintenance issues prevalent on campus.

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski toured Portland State Monday, getting a first hand look at the drastic deferred maintenance issues prevalent on campus.

The governor’s visit came after the House Ways and Means Committee proposed around $300 million less than the governor’s proposed budget for construction in higher education.

The governor’s tour took him through Lincoln Hall, where a deteriorating condition has raised serious concerns among faculty.

Severe lack of maintenance has left the building with an unstable foundation and failing roof, among other problems. The governor’s first stop on the tour was to the roof of Lincoln, where Vice President of Finance and Adminstration Lindsay Desrochers offered evidence of the building’s decay.

“We need to overhaul the whole building,” said Desrochers. “We’re working hard to keep this patchwork together but it doesn’t work after a certain point, and that’s where we are now.”

Desrochers also said the building needs to be seismically stabilized, something a raise in capital construction funding could be used toward. Kulongoski agreed that deferred maintenance is a serious issue for universities affected by state under-funding.

“The bigger picture is legislative dollars, and the legislators don’t understand the importance of capital construction,” he said. “You cannot build a major urban university with the necessary working facilities without it.”

From the roof, the tour descended into Lincoln’s basement, which suffered serious water damage from a leak from Cramer Hall last October. The leak resulted in a three-foot water reservoir that eroded the building’s foundation.

John Cieply, head of refrigeration mechanic facilities at PSU, pointed out scaffolding in the basement that is currently supporting Lincoln’s foundation and sidewalk after damages incurred by the flood. Lincoln also houses basement well facilities that are used to pump water through the building, which have been rebuilt several times.

“We have studies and a plan, we just don’t have the money,” said Cieply on plans for repairs. Desrochers said that the building was not just an academic building, because it also houses facilities used for local theater productions put on by the theater arts department.

“If a catastrophic event were to happen here there would be no place to house theater arts,” said Desrochers. “It could happen at anytime.”

The tour ended with a round table discussion on capital construction issues present in the university science buildings. The governor listened to students and faculty voice their concerns over overcrowded classrooms and outdated equipment, among other issues.

“A lot needs to be done,” said Sarah Corbis, a Ph.D. student at Portland State. “The science buildings are not up to date and can’t accommodate students. There need to be expansions and upgrades in equipment.”

Concerns with working environment issues were also raised, with several students testifying that some science labs in Science Building 2 are not properly ventilated, possibly compromising student health when dealing with lab chemicals. Along with Lincoln Hall, Science Building 2 has long been scheduled for maintenance construction.

Leaking faucets and broken sinks in some of the chemistry labs, and unorthodox class times were also mentioned.

“It’s a capacity issue,” said Academic Affairs Provost and Vice President Roy Koch on the university’s need to offer such class times. “There wouldn’t be midnight and 6 a.m. classes if there were more capacity. This is an extreme case.”

Even with upgrades, the science department would still need new facilities, according to Koch. “It creates new space in the interim, but this is just step one of facing these problems,” he said.

In his closing remarks, Kulongoksi said he is concerned that the Legislature does not understand the situation at PSU.

“The harder piece of convincing the legislation is making them understand that investing in the educational enterprise is investing in every element of it,” the governor said of his proposed higher education budget. “If you don’t see this holistically, you are going to be competing. This is a broader vision of education.”