Nearly $200 million in combined capital spending projects highlight Appalachian State Board of Trustees meeting

Nearly $200 million in combined capital spending projects highlight Appalachian State Board of Trustees meeting
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Chancellor Sheri Everts offered opening remarks, outlining university accomplishments and initiatives in 2017 and going forward.

By David Rogers. December 8, 2017. BOONE, NC — Two big capital spending projects were approved by the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees on Friday and a third, even larger one is in the works. All combined, they promise to be “transformational” for the High Country’s largest economic driver.

“Transformational” is not a word to be taken lightly, but it was used several times Friday morning at the end-of-year Board of Trustees meeting, both in terms of student experiences as well as in the physical appearance of the school.

On Thursday, in committee, the Business Affairs Committee near unanimously approved a resolution recommending that the Board go forward with plans for an $18 million renovation to Sanford Hall, which was constructed 49 years ago, in 1968.  An estimated 23,000 students use the building every day, a building with 43,241 assignable square feet that houses English and the Languages, Literature and Culture, Psychology, and ITS.

Today’s students will not be around to enjoy the benefits of the renovations you are asking them to pay for.

With the senior university leadership at the table with the Board of Trustees, key staffers and faculty members looked on from the perimeter.

The university’s request this past year for state money to pay for the project was turned down by the General Assembly.  However, the rare availability of what is described as “swing space” in 2018 after completion of the new College of Health Sciences Building prompted the university’s top administrators to seek Board approval for a new student debt service fee of $84 per year to support the issuance of self-liquidating bonds to fund the renovations.  Because other existing fees are being reduced, Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Paul Forte reported to the Business Affairs Committee on Thursday, the net increase in student fees will be $55, once approved.

Forte explained to the crowded committee meeting in Plemmons Student Union on Thursday that the 1960s-era heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, as well as the electrical systems have outlived their predicted life spans and are unable to support modern day needs. Those needs include not just air conditioning and dehumidification, but also the increased electrical loads required to power students’ laptops and personal electronics, as well as computer labs.

Student Body President Anderson Clayton, center, was the lone “nay” in the Business Affairs Committee for the increased debt service fee made mandatory for students.

The lone voice in committee that opposed the proposal was student body president, Anderson Clayton. While acknowledging the need for the renovations, she pointed out that for a project that might be completed in 2020, “Most, if not all of today’s students that you are asking to fund these renovations will not be around to see the benefit of what they are paying for.”

Board Chairman James Barnes, center, addresses Ms. Clayton’s concerns.

Board of Trustees Chairman James M. Barnes attended the Business Affairs Committee meeting and acknowledged Ms. Clayton’s point of view and position from the perspective of the students she represents, but pointed out that current students similarly benefit from fees, including debt service fees, paid by students that have gone before them through the years.

The second big capital spending project approved by the App State Board of Trustees is what has been dubbed the “Stadium End Zone Project.”  Carrying a hefty price tag of $38.2 million, this project will see the demolition of the current Owens Field House and related buildings. In their place, a modern, multi-use facility exceeding 87,000 gross square feet will be built.  Uses include leased space for a medical clinic, a team retail store to be managed by the university’s Dining department, premium stadium seating, banquet and club facilities (managed by Dining), a kitchen (managed by Dining), team locker rooms, equipment and laundry rooms, strength and conditioning facilities, sports medicine facilities, coaches lockers and offices, team meeting rooms, and ticketing. It was also stressed that the use of the facilities would not be exclusive to Athletics, but could be rented, for example, by other student organizations for special events and banquets.

The End Zone Project will be financed by a $5 million contribution from Dining, a $5 million contribution from Athletics, and the bulk from a $28.2 million Millennial Campus revenue-supported bond issuance.

Current students benefit today from fees paid by students who have gone before them and paid similar fees.

Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Paul Forte outlines capital projects that promise to be transformative for both student experiences as well as the physical campus.

A Millennial Campus is provided for by Article 21B of the North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 116-198.31, authorizing the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to issue revenue bonds payable from any leases, rentals, fees and other revenue, but without a pledge of taxes or the full faith and credit of the State of North Carolina.  The purpose of the bonds shall be to pay the cost, in whole or in part, of any building, structure, or another facility for the Centennial Campus (at North Carolina State University), the Horace Willams Campus (at UNC-Chapel Hill), or a Millennial Campus (a University of North Carolina campus other than UNC-Chapel Hill or North Carolina State University, such as Appalachian State, East Carolina, North Carolina A&T, UNC-Charlotte, and UNC-Greensboro, to name a few).

Now that the Board of Trustees’ approval has been gained, both of these projects require approval from the North Carolina University System Board of Governors.  According to one of the slides presented by Forte, the End Zone Project will be presented to the Board of Governors on December 15th, the Sanford Hall Renovation at their meeting on January 15, 2018.

The plans call for a $135 million public private partnership to renovate or replace seven existing residence halls.

At least in terms of cost, the two projects approved by the Board of Trustees on Friday pale in comparison to the three-phase student housing project that is under development.  Part of the University Housing Master Plan completed in 2015 and dubbed “P3” for its designation as a Public Private Partnership, the plans call for a $135 million in renovations or replacement (new construction) of seven residence halls: East, Justice, Winkler, Bowie, Eggers, Gardner, and Coltrane.

Dr. Sheri Everts participates in the Business Affairs Committee discussion on Thursday.

An estimated 90% of the some 2,100 beds to be facilitated by the project will be semi-suite units (two double occupancy bedrooms with a shared bathroom), while the remaining 10% will be apartment style units (two double-occupancy bedrooms with two bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen).

Because the project is expected to exceed the university’s debt capacity, the public private partnership, or P3 arrangement will be pursued’ where a developer is selected, providing them with a ground lease, and let the developer replace the existing residence halls. The university would then lease the rooms and operate each residence hall similarly to the existing halls.

Merit based scholarships work hand in hand with need based scholarships to provide us with a diverse and bright student population.

The Board of Trustees approved this project in March 2017, and it will be submitted to the Board of Governors for its approval at the March 23, 2018 meeting.

Athletic Director Doug Gillin pointed out key initiatives to the Athletics Committee on Thursday afternoon.

Forte’s presentation to the Business Affairs Committee and plan submitted to the full Board of Trustees provided for a zero percent (0.0%) increase in tuition for all (undergraduate, graduate, resident and non-resident) students and just a 1.89% increase in mandatory fees, reflecting the Sanford Hall debt service fee of $84 that was adjusted downward to $55 of net additional required fees because of reductions to other fees including Leadership Annex (-$3), Student Recreational Center (-$3), Dining Facilities (-$20), and Athletics Facilities (-$3).

Changes to Miscellaneous Service fees included:

  • Board/Meal Plans — no change at $2,714
  • Parking — $36 increase, to $276
  • Room/Housing — $174 increase, to $4,514
  • Textbook Rental — no change at $288
  • Transportation — $6 increase, to $150

In her opening remarks to the full Board of Trustees on Friday morning, Chancellor Sheri Everts reflected on the university’s accomplishments during 2017. In particular she pointed to athletic achievements that raised the profile of the university, as well as important points regarding the schoolwide commitment to environmental sustainability, its international recognition as one of the highest ranked schools out of 858 in 34 countries for 17 areas of sustainability impact. She also acknowledged the university’s efforts in opening the Academy at Middle Fork through the Reich College of Education to serve an area east of Winston-Salem with a large population facing challenging circumstances, including food insecurity and homelessness.

Everts noted that the school’s degree completion rate is well above the state target and national average. She also emphasized, “Everyone at Appalachian, myself included, watches closely the cost of a college education and the debt that some of our students incur as a result of their time with us.”

She made the remarks while reporting that fundraising efforts will focus on providing money for need-based scholarships.

“Merit-based scholarships work hand in hand with need-based scholarships to provide us with a diverse and bright student population,” Everts state. “Student success in the classroom and lab, combined with post-graduate success, contributes greatly to our excellent reputation as a national leader in higher education. As we grow at a slow and steady rate, the inclusion of some of the best young minds our country has to offer strengthens our academic mission and helps retain students, faculty and staff. So, you will also hear much about our efforts to grow the opportunities available at Appalachian.”

She outlined the largest single gift to the university, $10 million, given last month by alum Mark Ricks to App State Athletics; the importance of the AppKIDS program; the university’s engagement in the community to fight hunger; the opening and effective work of the new on-campus Veterans Center; cultural outreach to Native Americans by providing a permanent home for the flag of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee; and she reported the launch of a new university produced website, Appalachian Today, among other initiatives.

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