The Times West Virginian

August 17, 2008

Construction around FSU

Widening Locust priority; funds needed for Kennedy Barn project

By Katie Wilson

FAIRMONT — Construction matters were on the minds of the Fairmont State Board of Governors Thursday as they discussed projects to widen Locust Avenue and the continuing renovation of the historic Kennedy Barn.

First, a project to widen Locust Avenue to three lanes has been a priority for the state for several years. Last year, the board set aside $400,000 to help with the project, but stipulated they must give approval for each facet of the project.

On Thursday, state Division of Highways manager Greg Phillips attended the meeting to provide support and answer questions.

The university owns the property located across Locust Avenue, but hasn’t decided what to do with it yet.

Jim Decker, Fairmont State assistant vice president for facilities and capital projects, said as part of the road-widening project, the state will add more drainage in an effort to reduce a stormwater problem in the area.

“It sometimes floods over there when it rains hard,” Decker said.

In order to widen the road, the utility poles must be moved, board chairman Andy Kniceley said. He suggested paying additional money to have the utility lines moved to the back of the property to make it easier to build or develop there eventually.

Ultimately, the board voted to pay to move the utility lines to the back of the property and $6,000 to install decorative street lights to match the ones on the main campus. Kniceley said an agreement had been reached with the City of Fairmont for the poles. The city will pay for the electricity to power the lights, Kniceley said, if the university pays for the lights’ upkeep.

In other building matters, the renovation of the Kennedy Barn may be at a standstill.

Renovations to the former Kennedy Barn are currently taking place to transform the building into the new Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center. The renovations are projected to cost more than $1.5 million.

Only part of the money has been secured, so the project has been broken up into phases over the next few years. The first piece of money, $250,000, was donated by alumni Frank and Jane Gabor.

Decker informed the board Thursday additional problems had surfaced with the project and more money would be needed immediately. Since the agreement with the Gabors states the board of governors and the Fairmont State Foundation split the costs of the renovation, it amounted to about $88,000 each.

K. Jean Ahwesh, head of the foundation, said she would have to discuss the matter with that group’s board of directors, which meets later this week.

Decker explained if the money isn’t received quickly, construction will cease.

The added problems include additional repairs to beams and braces within the structure. Decker said they have already begun work on a host of other additional issues including more work to the roof, floor joists, demolition of five layers of concrete floor slabs and asbestos abatement and removal.

Board vice chairman Rocco Muriale said he is concerned about the ongoing costs of the project, since construction costs are continuing to rise.

The foundation had hopes the building would be completed before next year’s homecoming in October 2009. That may not be realistic, Decker said.

Ultimately, the board of governors voted to spend the $88,000 if the foundation could come up with its share.

E-mail Katie Wilson at kwilson@timeswv.com.