BY: CHRIS MCGEE
Even though construction seems to be happening all over campus and Richmond, the Fitness and Wellness Center is not one of those areas.
Last fall, Phase II of the Fitness and Wellness Center expansion was terminated because of state budgetary constraints.
However, this is contradictory to the student body’s wants, according to a referendum the students voted for and passed in April 2011.
Phase II involves adding on to the existing center on the east side, which is adjacent to the EnerSys factory.
Two individuals who have been working on this issue, Student Government Association (SGA) president Madelyn Street and Billy Martin, director of Campus Recreation, were somewhat confused.
Madelyn Street said she believes the project should move forward to consideration by the Board of Regents because the students approved the additional fee in the referendum.
“We are doing what the students want,” Madelyn Street said.
The referendum presented to the students is a point of contention with some in the administration.
James Street, vice president of administration, said he though the referendum was vague.
“I don’t believe it was entirely disclosed what the measure meant in terms of fees,” James Street said. “ I don’t think students knew what they were voting on. If you look at the T-shirts and fliers that were put out, students had to go to some other source to find out what the referendum was about.”
James Street said one of the major obstacles to the project receiving financial support from the administration was the university’s 31.25-million debt capacity.
James Street outlined what has transpired with the measure in the state legislature.
“It was on our list of capital projects as part of our two-year recurring plan,” he said.
James Street said the only project approved during the 2012 legislative session was the renewal of a university bond with Siemens.
“The approval during this budget cycle came out of the blue,” James Street said. “ We weren’t ready to go forward at the time.”
The legislative session is not the only hindrance to the expansion. The Board of Regents is another stumbling block in the path.
“This project hasn’t been fully vetted by the Board of Regents,” James Street said.
James Street wasn’t optimistic on its passage but offered what might be a sliver of hope.
“It’s not a foregone conclusion it will pass.” James Street said. “It could come up in the 2014 legislative session.”
James Street also said decreased enrollment, state support and the completion of a resident hall are impinging on the project’s progress.
“We were approved for 21 million for the completion of a resident hall during the 2010 budget cycle, and the Board of Regents approved the sale of the bond in November 2011,” James Street said.
James Street reiterated the $47 recreation fee students are paying now is to cover the operating cost of the current center.
“Students aren’t paying an additional fee at this time,” he said.
James Street said if the university secures approval for the expansion, the operating fees will increase to over $100 in addition to increases in tuition that may occur.