With the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting previously unnoticed aspects of day-to-day life, a look at the campus’ Facilities department and its operations becomes worth exploring.
The Facilities department functions not only to lead large renovation and construction projects such as the Christian Center and the Visual Arts Center – both of which debuted this past year – but to preserve the daily life of campus through various aspects of maintenance, utilities and grounds. The department oversees everything from campus landscaping to plumbing, from carpentry to electric, from managing a work order system for daily requests to overseeing major construction projects. As the work of any Facilities department is necessary to ensure that all buildings are kept to standard safety regulations, funding for the department is critical.
With the shift to at-home online courses in the Spring 2020 semester to comply with social distancing measures, Millsaps made the decision to offer pro-rated refunds for many students. In the possible event of receiving little financial aid from state and federal governments, budgets for Facilities and other departments may shrink for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
This does not mean, however, that work comes to a stop. Since many students have left campus, Facilities has been taking advantage of this time. Coleman Bond, the Director of Facilities, reported completing several tasks and renovations, such as pressure-washing several exterior components of residential and academic buildings, retrofitting outdoor lights, putting fresh paint where needed and updating many parts of the campus landscape, along with other various improvements. Bond also noted that “the front entry of Charles Hall was replaced and made ADA accessible.”
These improvements are likely to continue, even with a smaller budget to work with.
Bond stated, “Anything on campus that needs to be maintained is covered [by the Facilities budget]. So, if it’s existing and we’ve got to maintain it, that’s what the money covers.”
For Facilities and related departments, a careful balance of campus beautification, maintenance, and budget must be found, especially considering the age of most campus buildings. While these buildings add to the historic feel of the college, they are also considerably more expensive to maintain. Paired with city-related issues, such as faulty waterlines and pothole-ridden roads, Facilities has multiple factors to contend with that also require attention. These many factors contribute to the formation of the budget.
According to Whitney Emrich, Vice President of Finance for the college, Facilities receives its budget, as most departments on campus do, from the tuition and residential fees paid by students, as well as the annual donations gifted to the college. From the amount given to the department, various expenses such as fire and elevator safety, building repairs and labor and employee wages must be paid for. Utility bills alone, which include gas, water, electricity, waste management and cable, account for half the department’s expenses. Facilities also pays for laundry expenses.
“All of our expense budget, or for the most part, is lumped together, so all of our revenues come in and then through the budget process the college determines how those revenues will be allocated through a process with lots of different people giving input,” states Emrich. “All of our revenue resources are compiled together, and then that’s what forms our operations budget.”
While the typical maintenance work of the college is usually paid for out of the Facilities budget, larger capital improvements, such as the Christian Center, require specific fundraising. Approval from the college board is required for projects that will cost over half a million dollars. Donations also comprise a large portion of funding for large-scale projects, and these donations almost always are offered with specific intentions.
“[The Christian Center and Visual Arts Center] were set up in our system and then all gifts that came in went directly to those projects to cover those expenses. That’s kind of a big deal, to make sure we use the gifts in the way the donor intends,” Emrich said.
In early March, Bond and Emrich both stated that maintenance assessments had been conducted on most campus buildings. Following this assessment, there are several hopeful projects in the works, including improvements to Reuben’s, some of which has already started, along with possible improvements to John Stone Hall and redoing the roofing of the College Center.
Bond and Emrich also commented on the status of the recently closed Cabot Lodge Hotel. Echoing the former statement made by President Pearigen, both stated the Cabot Lodge building will be demolished, and proposals for the space are being considered.
Despite the numerous duties of Facilities, however, the primary focus remains the same: the students.
“We want campus to be nice, and we want students to be comfortable here and enjoy their time,” Emrich stated. “We want their experience to be as good as it can be. So, obviously, we are constrained by budget, just like anybody else is in their personal life, you know. You have so much money coming in, you can only put so much out. You know, these are older buildings and some things are just as they are. But in general, if there are things that we can do or if there is a problem, we do want to address those and make things better.”
While Bond and Emrich continue doing their jobs, students can play a part in improving their campus as well.
“They should see the effects of us, not us,” stated Bond, referring to his belief that the Facilities department should be seen through its improvements, and not behind-the-scenes happenings. He encourages students to reach out to Student Life or Residential Assistants, so the relevant staff members are notified and able to take care of complaints or consider suggestions for improvements.
“Communication, I think, is the biggest thing. If there’s a problem, make sure they tell somebody, and don’t just assume it’s going to be taken care of, just let somebody know. Especially in the dorms and the residence halls where they have the R.A.s, just make sure they tell their R.A.s so they can turn a work order in if there’s something wrong,” said Bond.
If you have a plumbing, electrical, or similar maintenance issue, visit the “Maintenance Request Form” located under the Student Resources page on the Millsaps website. After creating a free account, details concerning the maintenance request can be filled out and submitted. Please be mindful in the number of requests submitted and other demands of the maintenance staff.