Budget not enough to cover HSC bids

By Holly Schubert

The $1,995,000 budgeted by the Board of Regents for the Holmes Student Center tower renovation is not enough to cover bids for the project, which means the recladding of the tower will have to wait until spring.

Bids for the project ranged from $3.2 to $3.9 million. NIU has rejected all of the bids submitted July 7 and has been authorized by the Regents to redesign and rebid the project.

That means the barricade surrounding the student center will remain in place until at least spring.

NIU officials blame building material for the difference in price. The project calls for steel framing on which stone panels would be hung, but the expense of this steel drastically exceeded what had been anticipated.

“We need to approach the problem more creatively and look at other options,” said Regents Chairman Carol Burns at the Regents July 21 meeting.

“We need to go back to the very beginning and ask a few basic questions, especially about the appropriate use of the building. The first question is: Do we want to be in the hotel business?”

Burns proposed doing a cost-benefit analysis of the tower’s current use to see if the space could be used more efficiently. However, she said this would not solve the problems on the exterior of the tower.

William Herrmann, acting director of the student center, said eliminating the hotel would place the future of conferences and other meetings that would be held at the student center in jeopardy. He said, however, that he would be happy to look at the situation.

Herrmann, who also is the director of bond revenue, said the student center hotel averages about 40 percent occupancy throughout the year.

The busiest season is the summer when the student center hosts numerous conferences. The hotel covers its own maintenance and operation, he said.

Conrad Miller, administrative and support services manager, said July 20 there have been no reports of additional brick falling off the tower. However, he said summer is the calmer part of the year.