The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday approved $4.8 million in renovations to Wescoe Hall, the much-maligned, 1970s-era building in the heart of the Kansas University campus.
It's an expansion of a project that's already been approved - but that grew in scope after KU employees realized that warping of the concrete slab under the building's first floor was worse than they thought. Over time, the clay and shale under the building have pushed upward on the concrete slab, causing it to warp.
In addition to replacing the slab, the project will involve:
¢ Reconfiguring office space to make way for 10 new classrooms.
¢ Building a new handicapped-accessible entrance on the building's south side.
¢ Making fire code improvements.
¢ Installing a new, $1.35 million heating and air-conditioning system.
The project approval comes as employees await word of a study undertaken last year to evaluate the air quality of Wescoe and the health histories of people who have worked there. The study, led by John Neuberger, a professor in the KU School of Medicine's preventive medicine and public health department, came about after employees reported that a seemingly high number of people working in the building developed brain tumors.
Last summer, the word was that Neuberger's study might be done by January, but KU spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said it was taking longer than expected to contact employees. Bretz said that when the study is finished, KU will hold a meeting with Wescoe Hall's staff to discuss the results.
Dodie Coker, an administrative assistant in the philosophy department, said she hasn't heard anything around her workplace about the study's progress, and that the subject has died down in recent months.
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"I don't know anybody that they've talked to," she said. "It's not brought up anymore."
Bretz said the new heating and air-conditioning system is not directly related to the concerns about the building's air quality. With the slab being repaired, she said, it made sense to work on the air system as well.
"It is 30-plus years old," Bretz said. "It's toward the end of its lifespan."
The money for the renovations comes from a combination of interest on tuition dollars and from a statewide property tax that sets aside money each year for higher-education building repairs.
Initially, KU crews planned to replace the slab only under the south portion of the building, at a cost of $1 million. But recently they've noticed similar problems on the north side of the building, said Jim Modig, director of KU design and construction management, and thought it would be wiser to combine all the work into one contract.
The project is expected to be finished in summer 2008.