Monday, August 14, 2006

Old Science Building renovation moves forward - 14 Aug. 2006

This is a news/feature mix. The most important part is Board of Regents notes about the renovation, but I found an older gentleman walking around the science building snapping pictures, so I got his story, too. Great way to turn a dry-as-toast story into something significant.


Among the boxed-up chemistry experiments, empty wooden shelves and equipment as old as the old Science Building, Dr. Don Bowman walks through his laboratories with a digital camera.

Bowman taught chemistry here for 33 years and retired from the university in 1999.

The pictures, he said, are partly for personal memory and partly for a former student, who is now a college-level chemistry instructor.

“I wanted to show him the lab hasn’t changed much since he was here,” Bowman said before moving on to the next room.

It has not changed much at all. Vice President Kim Cherry said no record of any prior renovation exists.

And since construction on the new Science Building approaches completion and students prepare for classes there, the university will spend millions to renovate the 44-year-old facility.

The governing board for Oklahoma regional universities approved the renovation request in July – one day after Bowman spent the lunch hour snapping photos.

“I’m sorry it didn’t happen sooner, when I was here,” he said.

The board of regents, now known as the Regional University System of Oklahoma, met at the Branscum Alumni Center to weigh in on budget and project requests, and NSU brought two big items to the table. The first was a request to negotiate and make offers on three tracts of land near the university.

The second was the $6 million renovation project, which also includes a $100,750 line item for removing hazardous waste from the basement and tile flooring of the old Science Building.

Cherry said the waste removal has already begun and the renovation will include new paint, new flooring and furniture and an upgrade in technology.

The building will contain mostly classrooms and offices, with a few low-tech laboratories. She said about 85 percent of science labs are built into the new Science Building.

“A lot of this you couldn’t do in the old building because of the codes,” said Cherry.

By the week of the regents’ visit, almost all the classrooms and offices had been cleared out. The few that remained belonged to either summer classes or to the instructors teaching them. In some laboratories, boxes of equipment sat stacked on tables. Machines that looked decades old waited for relocation or, possibly, the trash heap.

In parts of the hallway sat empty shelving next to dusty and stale-smelling rooms while the steady hum of Coca-Cola vending machines remained.

All but four instructors had moved to the Annex on the last day of summer class. Classes this semester are spread across campus, with some even in the University Center.

The old building is expected to be empty by Aug. 18 and should reopen in one year.

Bowman said the science faculty tried for years to update the facility. However, he said, the money just was not there. With the passage of last year’s $500 million capitol bond issue and returns on revenue bonds, universities have garnered the resources to renovate old facilities and build new ones.

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