by Max Brantley
Shoot me. I can't work up much passion about the saga of presidential house renovations at University of Central Arkansas. Universities have long spent big money for nice presidential mansions, in part as a place to entertain swells. That how it goes. President ought to live as well as the football coach.
Anyway, today comes some help for UCA in its dogged pursuit by Javert-like newspaper reporters covering everything from a scrap of concrete laid by FDR (or one of his Depression-era beneficiaries) to a little paint for campus walks.
Aramark, which has the apparently very lucrative food concession at UCA, has donated $700,000 to a fund for presidential home renovations, which apparently will be the course of choice for the Board of Trustees, rather than a new home. Read on:
CONWAY — Aramark, a food services company, has donated $700,000 to the UCA Foundation towards future renovations of the president’s residence at the University of Central Arkansas. The donation was announced Friday during the UCA Board of Trustees meeting.
Brad Crosson, district manager for Aramark, said the company has collaborated with the university in the past. “Whatever is done to the house will aid us in entertaining the community at large and help fulfill the mission the university has,” he said. Aramark has been UCA’s food service provider since 1976. “I think this is a very generous donation,” said Chairman Scott Roussel. “They have given money to other universities and if you look at the history here on campus, they have given money in other areas.”
A President’s Residence Advisory Committee has been evaluating the existing structure for the past six months. Roussel asked the committee to offer the best options for housing the university’s presidents. The committee took into consideration future tenants such as a president with a spouse and a family and how the public space will function as it evaluates the home. The president's residence, a state-owned facility, serves as the residence of the university president and is the location of choice for entertaining dignitaries and distinguished guests who come to the University.
Built in 1937, the president’s home has undergone many renovations, changes in design and functions, and increased demands for social events. Over the past few years, some major renovations and repairs have taken place to address safety issues. Most notably, the discovery of mold and lead paint in several areas throughout the home caused a concern for the health of the occupants and those visiting the home. The committee presented a report to the board Friday that included three options — renovating the current home, providing a living stipend, and purchasing an existing property. The report states there is “no perfect option for addressing all the concerns related to presidential housing.” However, the committee members “recognize and appreciate the importance of the current structure being uses as the president’s house, especially to the alumni of UCA.”
The committee’s report also recommended a standing university committee to oversee requests for remodeling or renovations to the structure and grounds at the president’s residence. The board voted to allow the administration to seek preliminary costs for renovations of the home.
Also on Friday, the board passed a resolution in support of a pedestrian walkway and bicycle trail project. The university has received a $234,000 Transportation Enhancement Grant through the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department for the construction of a pedestrian walkway and bicycle trail. The trail would allow students a safe thoroughfare from Bear Village, the university-owned apartment complex on Moix Boulevard, to the heart of the campus. The project will also include an outdoor classroom. The walkway and bicycle trail will be located along Stone Dam Creek from Beatrice Powell Drive to Dave Ward Drive. The university will allocate $86,225 toward the project. The estimated total cost of the project is $320,225.