Thumbs up, thumbs down on campus construction

The growth of Sam Houston State University and subsequent construction projects proved nearly too much to handle this summer. At least one building project missed its target completion date while another opened amidst scattered projects still being completed.

Despite the sharp smell of fresh paint and the sound of drills echoing down the halls, students who moved into Raven Village this past weekend still seemed ecstatic to be among the first in the new dorm.

While the building opened on schedule for students to move in, construction trailers in the parking lot and workers in the halls stood as proof that things still needed to be done.

“We’re just working on some minor issues,” SHSU Facilities Planner John McCrosky said. “We really gave the contractor an impossible schedule. The main thrust is just to get the students in the building, and we did that.”

The scheduled completion date for both Raven Village and the new Welcome and Visitor’s Center was set for July 2006, according to the SHSU Physical Plant Web site. Yet when school began in late August, the Welcome Center still had not been completed.

McCrosky said a surge in construction in the area and a lack of materials served as the main hindrances to the project.

“The construction business is in full force right now, and we had a lot of supplies come in late. Our contractor also had trouble getting in all of his subcontractors on time,” McCrosky said. “Now we’re really just working on the finishes. We’re planning on opening it Sept 1, but I can’t promise anything.”

When the main focus is getting students in on time, McCrosky said it is common to open buildings with minor projects still in progress. Even after a job is complete, contractors often must return to do warranty work.

“It’s inevitable that they will eventually have to come back and work on something else anyways,” McCrosky said. “There’s very seldom nothing left to do on a new building when it opens up.”

Several projects this summer did rise from the dust to completion on time and on schedule. A new scoreboard at Bowers Stadium, featuring one of only two video screens in the Southland Conference, was completed in July while a new weight room erected especially for Bearkat athletes reached fruition as well.

The state-of-the-art weight training facility employs two strength and conditioning coaches and serves all 16 Bearkat sports teams. Currently, the football and women’s soccer teams already use the facility for full-team workouts.

“We love it. There was still some fine-tuning to be done when we moved in, but we’re very grateful to be in there,” strength and conditioning coach Brian Wiseman said. “We just love it.”

Each month during a project, university officials meet with the contractors to discuss any changes that may need to be made with completion dates, McCrosky said. As a result of the missed deadline with the Visitor’s Center, he said they plan to sit down with the contractors at a later date to assess the issue of “liquidated damages.”

“We don’t reward or penalize our contractors for completing a task early or missing a deadline, but we will deal with that issue later,” McCrosky said.

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