By Marty Finley
Negotiations for possible renovations to the Blanton House have been underway since mid-August, but delays have prevented the project from getting started.During its quarterly meeting Friday, in light of this year’s statewide budget cuts, the board elected to push the renovations back again.
The original delay stemmed from a special meeting held in October, during which the Board of Regents decided to elect Doug Whitlock as the permanent president of Eastern.
The election discussion took precedence, pushing Blanton House discussion to January.
However, the board now has a more streamlined project plan than it did in mid-September when James Street, director of capital planning and facilities management, presented a proposal of an aesthetic and maintenance overhaul exceeding $1 million.
Street presented a new proposal Friday that would reduce the cost of the project to $384,000 by removing unnecessary items not needed for the Blanton House to function, such as the replacement of one of the house’s three chimneys from the list.
“I’m sure everyone in here, like me, didn’t know the third chimney didn’t match,” Street said.
Street said the original estimate given by the architectural firm, Sherman Carter Banhart, was a thorough one.
“The charge given (to) the architect at that time was to examine every facet of the home to determine the total cost of the renovation and restoration to bring its condition to ‘as new’ standards,” according to a report presented to the board by Street.
However, Street said a focus could be put on plumbing, electrical, maintenance and vital interior renovations, which will trim the expenditures tremendously.
Street said the house’s electrical system was the most pressing issue because a full replacement will be necessary.
The house has “tube and spool” wiring from the 1900’s in addition to wiring installed in the last 10 years, and “variations exist in the quality of the various wiring installations,” according to the report.
The plumbing has not been modified since the last renovation, which took place in the 1960s.
A complete overhaul is needed, according to Street’s report.
The report also recommended installing a maintenance unit in the basement for heating and cooling to serve the second floor.
Doing that could cut down on drainage issues, according to the memo.
But Street said he could not support the renovation at this time because of the budget cuts, and felt it was not an urgent project since no one was living there.
“I don’t think we’re gonna lose it tomorrow,” Street said.
Hunter Bates, chair of the Board of Regents, agreed.
“With no one needing to live there, and with all the financial uncertainties we are facing, we should hold off,” Bates said.
However, Bates questioned whether the university could focus on repairing the heating and electrical and avoid interior repairs at this time.
Street insisted the university should wait until the project could be completed and take advantage of all the money available to do the job correctly.
Street said it would be silly to start a project without finishing it all.
The Board of Regents voted unanimously to delay the project and declined to discuss when the project would undergo consideration for approval again.
Gov. Steve Beshear will present his budget recommendations on Jan. 29.