Funds for repairs running short

Potholes are not just a reality for highway drivers, they are also a problem for students who need to cross the plaza at Northern Kentucky University.

Freshman Alex Knockelmann, who uses a wheelchair, said he has not had any major issues getting around NKU’s campus, but the holes and cracks in the concrete on the plaza have made things difficult for him.

“Winter takes its toll,” said Larry Blake, assistant vice president of facilities management. Blake said they had tried to repair some of the holes on the plaza, but as soon as the temperature dropped below freezing again, the new concrete popped out of the holes it was meant to fill.

Blake said facilities management has gotten an additional $50,000 just for repairs to the plaza, but it may not be enough to repair everything. These repairs are scheduled to begin in the summer.

Blake said the university plans to completely remodel the plaza, removing most of the concrete and an area with more grass and trees, but does not have the funds to complete the project. At this time, NKU is planning to complete the project piece by piece, unless a donor steps forward to help renovate the space.

With the aging campus, other issues arise that may affect handicapped students, such as mechanical failures. Elevators in Founders Hall and W. Frank Steely Library are frequently out of service and some of the handicapped entrances open too slowly.

Blake explained that federal law requires these doors to remain open for a certain amount of time, but some of them operate more slowly because they are in high-traffic areas. A door that opens too quickly might cause injuries.

However, Blake said it should not take 20 seconds for a handicapped door to open, which is how long one door at the Applied Science and Technology building takes just to fully open.

Aging elevators are maintenance issues as well. The motor in the main elevator in Steely Library burned out Feb. 22, setting off the fire alarm, and causing an evacuation of the building. Blake said the elevator should be repaired by the end of this week. He is not sure if a new motor was ordered or the old one was rebuilt.

Blake said a problem with many of the elevators on campus is that there are no parts available for them. He cited an instance last year when one of the elevators in Founders Hall was out for six months because it was being used to salvage parts for the other two elevators in the building.

To get things repaired on campus, Blake said his department needs to know it is broken. He said elevators and handicapped doors are inspected once a year, but if something happens between those inspections, they can not repair it until someone reports it. In the case of the handicapped entrance to the ST building, Blake said he does not think it should take that long to open, and he will have someone inspect the door to see if it needs repaired.

Lisa Besnoy, director of Testing and Disability Services, praised how quickly Blake’s staff responds to maintenance requests, saying some facilities management workers have come out to shovel a path to a disabled student’s dorm who was having trouble making it back in the snow.

“I’ve had superintendents meet me on the plaza to look at a specific crack,” Besnoy said.

Blake said the department found that about $130 million is needed to bring everything on campus up to perfect condition, and $11 million would be needed next year for upkeep. Right now, facilities management operates with between $500,000 and $600,000 a year for maintenance to NKU’s buildings and grounds.

Money to repair elevators, handicapped entrances and cracks in the plaza concrete comes from this fund, but Blake said the department has applied for an additional $25,000 a year exclusively to maintain the plaza.

Story by Cassie Stone