More building repairs surfacing

By Ellen Skelly

With the average NIU building being more than 30 years old, more and more repairs are needed, as evidenced by the recent resurfacing of the Holmes Student Center tower.

Almost every NIU building currently “needs attention,” said Physical Plant Director John Harrod.

Stevenson and Grant towers are the buildings producing the most work orders because they are aging buildings used by a high number of students, said Edward O’Donnell, NIU superintendent of building maintenance.

Last week, there were 2,422 work orders to be completed, accounting for about 26,680 hours of work, he said.

Harrod said most buildings will have some maintenance needs after 10 years, but after 25 years, they begin needing “major and significant” repairs.

Building maintenance “does not have the staff to be able to keep up” with the work orders because the top priority has been remodeling projects, O’Donnell said.

He said there were more than 80 remodeling projects last year.

The decision of what type of projects to do has been a battle of the “gotta-haves and the nice-to-haves,” said Patricia Hewitt, Business and Operations associate vice president.

Sometimes, more remodeling projects are done sooner because state-allocated money for remodeling does not roll over into the next year if left unused, Hewitt said.

When some of the requested budget money is not received, operating costs outside of human services are cut, meaning maintanence funds are lowered, Hewitt said.

O’Donnell said remodeling projects probably have taken priority because of lower costs by not hiring outside contractors and the “outstanding … second-to-none” quality work of NIU craftsmen.

ewitt said there also are times when remodeling is needed to gain or maintain accreditation in an academic department.

Understaffing and the cutting of the work day to seven and one-half hours also makes it harder to fill work orders quickly, O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell is responsible for all building craftsmen, which includes carpenters, painters, electricians, plumbers, refrigerator mechanics, locksmiths, elevator mechanics and brick masons.

Some brick buildings need “tuck pointing,” which is going over joints on bricks to make sure moisture is not penetrating bricks, Harrod said.

Some buildings needing tuck pointing are Zulauf and Swen Parson halls, he said.

About half of the tiles on the ground floor of Altgeld Hall—NIU’s oldest building—need replacing, O’Donnell said. The other half were replaced a few years ago.