The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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November 15, 2013

MSSU to build new residence hall, FEMA storm shelter on campus

The governing board of Missouri Southern State University on Friday advanced plans for the construction of a new residence hall and a storm shelter on the northern end of the campus.

A 74,000-square-foot, three-story residence hall is planned at the corner of Newman Road and International Drive, near the existing residence halls. It will be an apartment-style complex, adding about 200 beds that will be arranged in four-person suites. Each suite will share a kitchen, living quarters, a bathroom and showers, and a balcony, according to designs presented Friday to the Board of Governors.

“It’s totally different than anything we’ve got on our campus now,” said Bob Harrington, director of the physical plant.

The university has about 700 beds in its existing residence halls, which are largely two-person rooms with shared or semi-private bathrooms and other amenities. Most of the halls are full, said Darren Fullerton, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management; only Blaine Hall, the oldest residence hall on campus, has vacancies, he said.

Fullerton said no current residence halls will be closed during construction or immediately after the new hall is built, although the ultimate goal is to eventually renovate or close some of the oldest dormitories on the campus.

Funding for the project will come from a state bond issue next year in the amount of $14 million, excluding issuance costs. The projected $14 million cost of the project includes construction, architects’ fees, infrastructure and utility work, landscaping and contractors’ fees, said Rob Yust, vice president for business affairs.

Administrators expect to break ground on the residence hall in February or March, with construction finished by fall 2015. The contractor is R.E. Smith Co., of Joplin; the architect is Bates and Associates, of Springfield.

Mitch McCumber, who chairs the board’s budget-audit committee, said he supports the project.

“The idea is we’ll definitely grow into this,” he said. “We want to grow enrollment, we want to grow the university, and this is part of that product.”

When told of the proposed residence hall Friday afternoon, sophomore Holly Loncarich said it sounded like an “awesome” plan.

“They (the existing halls) are OK dorms, but they definitely need to get caught up with some of the other colleges in this area,” said Loncarich, an international business major who lives on campus in a residence hall that was built in 1969.

Board members also OK’d borrowing up to $2 million for furniture — approximately $500,000 earmarked for the new residence hall and the rest for new furniture for existing residence halls.

“In order to take care of issues with the current residence halls, they have some furniture in there that’s extremely old and outdated,” Yust said. “We would like to go ahead and take care of that as well.”

Administrators have long listed the residence halls and Reynolds Hall, the math and science building, as the university’s top priorities for renovation or reconstruction. During a meeting of the budget-audit committee Friday morning, Pat Lipira, interim vice president for academic affairs, asked administrators how Reynolds Hall fit into the plans for improving the residence halls.

“I suspect some folks might say, ‘How did you choose this over Reynolds Hall?’” she said.

Interim President Alan Marble said improving Reynolds Hall is still at the top of administrators’ wish list. But a new residence hall will generate revenue through room and board fees and largely will be financially self-sustaining, he said, while needed upgrades for Reynolds Hall will require additional capital improvement money that currently isn’t available.

“We can do the residence hall with this investment and let it pay for itself,” he said. “With Reynolds, we can put this investment in and still be short (in funds). We need some more money from the state to get this done.”

The 11,520-square-foot storm shelter is slated to be built in the same area as the residence hall. It will be built to standards set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will hold up to 2,000 people, Yust said.

The shelter — a square, concrete building designed to withstand high winds — will eventually include a glass atrium, which is anticipated to become a coffeeshop with office space and seating, Yust said. The building is otherwise planned to be a multipurpose center, he said.

Funding for the shelter will come from a grant of approximately $1.26 million from FEMA, Yust said. The board on Friday authorized an additional $800,000 from its cash reserves for costs not covered by the grant.

Presidential search

The MSSU Board of Governors continues to fill out its search committee in its search for the university’s next permanent president, co-chairwoman Sherry Buchanan said Friday. The board has scheduled two campus meetings during the first week of December in which it will solicit suggestions related to how the committee should proceed with the search and what committee members should look for in potential presidential candidates, she said.

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