Steam plant repairs long overdue

Nick Sallen, Copy Editor

In April 2016, I wrote an opinion article in the Dakota Student based on the master plan executive summary. In the summary, a campus-wide facilities condition survey highlighted a variety of UND’s infrastructure strengths and weaknesses. The three buildings with the worst facilities condition index were the steam plant, Merrifield and O’Kelly.

The goals of the master plan are to renovate the infrastructure of many buildings on campus, make campus more safe, prioritize the re-paving of cracked roads along campus and increase classroom and lab use efficiency.

The average facility condition index rating for all campus buildings inspected is 0.20, or poor condition. When considering the buildings individually, 40 of the 70 received a “poor” rating.

The minimum threshold for poor condition buildings is anything greater than 0.1. “Fair” ratings range from 0.05 to 0.1. Anything lower than 0.05 is in good condition.

In my article I summarized why the steam plant is in dire need of repairs:

“With seven boilers ranging from 24 to 52 years of age, four of the seven boilers are beyond their useful life of 40 years. With the worst index of all buildings surveyed at 0.55, if the steam plant does not receive new equipment soon it will fail. An emergency shutdown could lead to the suspension of classes and moving residents from UND housing units. In that situation, emergency response costs could be astronomical. The cost to make all of the necessary repairs totals to be around $22 million over the next 10 years.”

Now, UND is beginning to plan out the future of the steam plant. I could not be happier to see development in this direction.

UND is committed to academic excellence and marketing, given the new medical school, law school and extensive rebranding efforts. While I understand these new additions greatly increase UND’s image to prospective students, if you can’t support the current infrastructure, new buildings and fancy posters will merely serve as a distraction.

In order to fund the current infrastructure repairs, campus ought to cut back spending on new things. Admittedly, I am not a supporter of the $3 million marketing effort UND is prioritizing. I do not think the spending was wise, given our current budget woes. Rather, I would’ve liked to see funds allocated towards a few of the programs we’ve lost.

In the summary, an investment of $46 million per year over the next ten years will be needed to make the repairs across campus. If $27 million is provided each year, buildings will maintain their poor condition. If anything less is provided, further deterioration is expected and the cost to repair buildings will only increase. The total cost of backlogged maintenance will increase from $298 million to $506 million in ten years if no action is taken.

I urge UND to continue planning repairs for the worst facilities condition index buildings. It doesn’t take a survey to know that Merrifield and The College of Engineering need help. While these repairs are not highly marketable to prospective students like a new medical school is, they are fundamental for daily functioning on a college campus.

Nick Sallen is the copy editor for Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]