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Hoping to receive $51.5 million, Saint Mary’s launches a multi-year series of updates

| Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Saint Mary’s began a major multi-year series of facilities updates this summer, spending over $2.5 million in the months leading up to fall semester. These renovations were made possible after the Board of Trustees designated up to $3 million to be added to the current fiscal year’s capital budget, vice president for strategy and finance Dana Strait said.

The College also has approval to issue a bond of up to $51.5 million, with almost $20 million to be used to re-finance existing debt at a lower rate, Strait said.

“This is really just the beginning of what the College is putting forward for a two to three-year improvement plan,” Strait said. “We received resounding support from the board earlier this summer for making some improvements in campus spaces with a focus on improving existing buildings and the environment. … It’s really time to focus on tending to those buildings that are beautiful, historical parts of our campus and really emblematic of who we are – think LeMans Hall, Holy Cross Hall – but that really need some love.”

Strait said much of the work completed this summer is deferred maintenance accrued over the years, and will go largely unseen.

“So things like sewage ejector pumps, drainage, gutters and roofing repairs … things very typical to maintaining buildings like ours,” she said.

Other updates, such as aesthetic enhancements made to key academic and student spaces, will be extremely visible to students returning to campus, Strait said. Cushwa-Leighton library is currently undergoing major renovations, with special attention paid to creating useful and accessible student spaces that cater to all needs, she said.

“The librarians are currently hard at work clearing out the journal space that used to be adjacent to Trumper, and by fall break they will have half of those journals removed,” Strait said. “… Group study spaces and single study spaces will be installed throughout that space to provide our students with 24/7-hour study spaces. We’re very excited about that.”

To facilitate true 24-hour accessibility, even in the winter months, the tunnels leading from LeMans Hall to the library will be re-opened, Strait said.

“We also have to ensure that they’re accessible, so that students who are in wheelchairs or who need a little bit more physical assistance … [are able] to get through,” Strait said. “So, part of opening that tunnel this fall will involve installing accessibility ramps so that they can really be used by all students.”

Additionally, Sodexo services has provided an automated Starbucks coffee machine for the front of the library, Strait said.

“It’s no longer that free coffee machine that used to be there, but it’s good coffee,” Strait said. “And as an alternative, we’ll still be providing that free coffee on the lower level in Trumper. We really wanted to meet that desire for higher quality drinks, while also providing open access coffee for those who don’t want to use their munch money or their credit card.”

Strait said student perspectives will play a large role in future facilities updates.

“In terms of a plan moving forward, when the College makes decisions about big projects, it’s always made as a community,” she said. “So this fall, I will be hosting the facilities town halls to provide faculty, staff, administration and … students with opportunities to share with us what they would like to see happen.”

The updates made to academic buildings and recreational spaces have been made with changing student needs and preferences in mind, Strait said.

“We need to be able to make sure that we’re meeting those interests with state-of-the-art facilities,” Strait said. “So, keeping pace with that instead of falling behind.”

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