Ervin Dining Hall to undergo renovations, more on-campus improvements planned

Hunter Deas, Copy Editor

While Francis Marion University has begun construction on a new athletic complex and will soon have completed construction on its Performing Arts Center, the university has also undertaken on-campus renovations, namely upgrading the Ervin Dining Hall and relocating the Office Service Building. The university also plans to finish renovating its dormitories, a project that was begun last year.

Final architectural plans for the dining hall renovations were scheduled to be decided upon Thursday, Feb. 3, according to Vice President of Business Affairs John Kispert.

“We hope to put about $1.5 million dollars into Ervin Dining Hall,” Kispert said, addressing the cost of the project.

Funding for the dining hall renovations was derived in part from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act “stimulus” money. Other funding was contributed by Sodhexo in accordance with an agreement to provide FMU with money over the course of a 10-year contract.

Plans for renovation of the dining hall include redesigning the serving area – the deli serving station, salad bar, etc. – into new and more aesthetically modern configurations, along with new tiles for the floors. Also to be replaced is the tray belt, which conveys dirty trays into the dish-washing area. The main dining room will also see renovation, with new furniture, including booths along the walls, and new paint and carpeting.

“It’s a long-awaited renovation,” Kispert said. “I think the students should be pleased with it.”

How much of the Hendrick and Palmetto room can be redone depends on budget.

Kispert said that plans for construction to replace the office services building have already been approved, and preliminary sketches have already been drawn up. The vice president said that the new building was estimated to cost $650,000 dollars, with funding coming from “various sources.”

Kispert went on to say that the university still has to decide on a location for building, and that  ideally it would be more centrally located than it currently is. He said that the new building would be built adjacent to an existing parking lot for truck access, though which parking lot has yet to be decided. The office building handles mail and printing services for the university now, but was originally a student lounge, according to Kispert. It will retain its current function when it is relocated.

Money left over from the second phase of the Villa Apartments’ construction, along with a repair and replacement fund, will be used to replace all of the furniture in apartments D, E and F during this coming summer. Apartments A, B and C were similarly renovated last year as part of the same project.

Kispert said that he would like to see the state issue capital bond bills because he would like to renovate Founders Hall, and see the construction of new School of Education and School of Business buildings. However, after ten years of being denied funding, and with the current economy taken into consideration, he expressed little hope of seeing those goals achieved any time soon.

“With the economy what it is, and the budget woes the state is in, you probably won’t see it (bond bills) for a number of years,” Kispert said. “If I don’t have a source of money through a capital bond bill, I can’t build a school of education, a school of business building, or renovate Founders Hall unless I find different sources of money.”

With regard to sources of money, Kispert referred to projects undertaken and completed this past summer – renovation of the heating and air conditioning in the, along with the installation of new bleachers – and explained the university’s policy of planning for the “unforseen.” A certain portion of student fees and tuition is allotted to capital maintenance reserve money, for instance, and other funds. This money is used in turn to maintain the university.

“We couldn’t run the university if we didn’t source those monies somewhere,” Kispert said.

That being said, he stressed that FMU offers one of the lowest tuition rates in the state: “Outside of one other university, we remain the lowest tuition in the state.”