- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Now that most of Virginia’s college students are away from campus, university classrooms, dormitories and offices can get some much-needed sprucing up during their annual summer makeover.

The lower activity and warm weather make summer the best time to do the upgrades and start more large-scale construction projects. Faculty and summer students are still around, but the work needs to be completed.

“When you have thousands of students coming onto campus at the end of the summer, you don’t have a choice of not having a dining center being done yet,” said Mark Owczarski, a spokesman for Virginia Tech. “You truly have no option.”

By this fall alone, the university is expected to finish the expansion of Lane Stadium, a new horticultural research center and an addition to the school’s chilled-water plant.

These projects will be conducted at the same time as routine summer maintenance, when workers clean dorms, cut trees and install new fire-safety devices before students return to campus in August.

At Radford University, crews are renovating Russell Hall, a $6.5 million project that started in April as students were getting ready to leave for the summer. Four buildings will get new roofs by the time students return in the late summer.

Radford officials said the projects represent only a fraction of the maintenance reserve projects that the university has on its to-do list.

That list grows each year but is never completed because of a lack of money, even with the state’s funding increase for campus construction projects.

Costs for the materials necessary for construction and renovation projects have risen about 30 percent nationwide from last year, with no region of the country spared, said Lander Medlin, executive vice president of the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers.

The contributing factors are as simple as rising energy and fuel costs and as global as a construction boom in China that has increased the demand for materials.

At James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., the number of building projects is directly related to the school’s ballooning enrollment.

In the past two decades, the student population has doubled to 17,000.

“Expectations have risen over the years,” university spokesman Andy Perrine said. “It’s very important to us that when students arrive in the fall, the appearance and access to campus is up to those expectations.”

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