The offices of Kansas University's top administrators have received a six-figure overhaul in recent months.
Since August 2006, KU has spent $106,895 on renovations to the corridor of offices in Strong Hall that include the offices of Chancellor Robert Hemenway and Provost Richard Lariviere, according to a document obtained by the Journal-World via a state open-records request.
The money includes a kitchen remodeling at a cost of $30,377, about $1,300 for an icemaker and pump, $849 for a refrigerator used to keep drinks cool, and $8,060 on covers for the three radiators in Lariviere's office.
KU spokesman Todd Cohen acknowledged that it's a large dollar amount but said the renovations were needed, adding that it had been many years since significant work had been done in the offices.
"It looks like a big number, but if you look at what it was spent on, it was spent very efficiently," he said. "This is the central administration office of the university. You would expect them to have regular, everyday furniture, not 30-year-old furniture, which is what a lot of the offices had."
He said the provost's offices hadn't been painted in 10 years and the chancellor's hadn't been painted in 13 years. The painting bill came to $19,291 for 9,068 square feet.
The 10-by-14-foot kitchen, which doesn't have a table and is used by 60 staff members, replaces two smaller kitchens, one of which didn't have running water.
"If the chancellor brings his lunch, it's going in there, too," Cohen said.
KU officials say that in Lariviere's office the radiator covers, built in-house by KU's Facilities Operations department, make the office less drafty.
Most of the new items were bought through the state's purchasing contract, except in cases where staff got approval to buy items that were a better value, Cohen said. All the furniture that was removed from the office was recycled to be used elsewhere on campus, he said.
Even $100,000 later, the offices still could use some work.
On a recent tour, Cohen and KU spokeswoman Lynn Bretz pointed out pieces of furniture that still show wear and tear, such as a conference-room table next to the chancellor's office that was taken out of storage and has smudges on the surface, and a chair with a hole in the wicker backing.
Cohen said he realizes some people might question the spending, given the other maintenance needs on campus. One of the hot topics of this year's legislative session is to find a way to pay for millions of dollars in "deferred maintenance" at KU and other regents universities.
Last month a chemistry class had to be postponed in Malott Hall when a drain pipe broke and spilled a foul-smelling liquid into the classroom. Malott Hall has more than $14 million in maintenance needs.
"There really is no good time" to do a remodeling, Cohen said. "There's always going to be some other need out there."
Rich Givens, the chemistry professor who was teaching in the Malott Hall classroom when the pipe broke - and who got some of the liquid on his hand - said he doesn't begrudge the spending on the chancellor's and provost's offices.
"There are needs all over the university, and certain priorities have to come up at certain times," he said. "We have new people in the chancellor's office. ... We would do the same thing for a new faculty member in chemistry. We want people to come in and succeed."