By Marc Kovac
State lawmakers have postponed a decision on a request from Youngstown State University to hire a Connecticut consulting firm to develop a plan for future improvements to buildings on campus.
The Controlling Board on Monday deferred action on the $127,858 contract with Sightlines after several members questioned whether the services could be provided by an Ohio-based firm.
Sightlines earlier was hired by the Ohio Board of Regents, at a cost of more than $1 million, to analyze capital improvements at public college campuses across the state.
YSU wants to hire the same firm to build on the data collected as part of the earlier study to provide a more in-depth analysis of the university’s 40-plus buildings.
“We’re looking for a total building assessment,” said Richard White, associate director of planning and construction, who was on hand Monday in Columbus to answer lawmakers’ questions.
According to documents, 85 percent of building space at YSU is more than 25 years old and at “a point in time where building systems and components reach the end of their useful life and need to be replaced if buildings are going to operate effectively.”
The documents added, “Key projects like the campus gateway have improved the appearance of campus, but overall the campus falls short of investment targets and spends less than peers on facilities. The result is a significant and growing backlog of deferred asset reinvestment projects. All of these factors have put a strain on the facilities themselves and on the ability of the campus facilities management department to maintain and improve the buildings.”
Lawmakers questioned why the university didn’t seek proposals from other firms to complete the work, using the original data compiled by Sighlines.
“Why couldn’t another company in Ohio basically take this data and come into your campus and follow the steps that you’re looking for and develop the facility needs and analysis that you’re looking for?” said Sen. Chris Widener, a Republican from Springfield who serves on the Controlling Board.
The deferral Monday will give YSU additional time to justify the contract before lawmakers give their approval or reject the request outright.
Also Monday, the lawmaker panel approved YSU’s purchase of a lot on South Scott Street from Phyliss Quail for $7,000. The property will be used as part of an expansion of the university’s athletics fields.