SEMO looks at 3 options for dorm

Friday, October 20, 2006

The university will consider whether to raze, renovate or close Dearmont.

Southeast Missouri State University's aging Dearmont residence hall could be razed and replaced with a new 300-student residence hall.

That's one of three options school officials will consider over the next several months. The other two: renovate the 46-year-old building, or close it down as a residence hall and consider other uses for the building.

"I would hope by March we would have some idea of what we want to do," said Dr. Dennis Holt, vice president of administration and enrollment management.

The building along Normal Avenue is structurally sound, Holt said. But it's the only residence hall on campus that isn't air-conditioned.

Another concern is the cotton-like material on the ceilings of students' rooms and the hallways. Applied to the concrete ceilings for soundproofing in the 1980s, small pieces of the material have fallen onto students and their clothes and belongings in recent years.

Student and Dearmont resident Charlene Latham complained about the falling fibers last month. "It is dirty, and it is falling," said Latham, who has covered the ceiling of her dorm room with cut-up plastic trash bags taped together to keep the debris from falling on her.

School officials said possible remedies include scraping the material off all the ceilings or covering it with some type of sealant.

Holt said such remedies would be expensive. Removing the material entirely and painting the ceilings would cost an estimated $390,000, Holt said Thursday.

Any renovation plan also would look at the possibility of replacing the electrical system. "We would have to do that in order to support putting in air conditioning," Holt said.

"We have no estimate yet, but I would expect it would be expensive," he said.

A major renovation would require increased room charges in coming school years to pay for it, he said. Those fees pay to operate the campus housing.

Dearmont currently provides a more low-cost housing option for students. Closing Dearmont would eliminate that option, Holt said.

The university, he said, was planning to look at the future of Dearmont this school year even before Latham publicly criticized the building's condition. However, school officials said the university doesn't want to make costly renovations if the building is going to be torn down.

The university plans to seek input from Dearmont's residence hall association of students as to what they would like to see done with the building.

Latham believes the university should renovate the building rather than raze it. Without air conditioning, students in the residence hall act more like a community because they often keep their dorm-room doors open, and congregate in the lounge or outside in the quadrangle, she said.

"It makes us become a more involved, more integrated community," she said.

Holt said it would be costly to tear down the residence hall. "Tearing down the thing is more than a million-dollar job," he said. "This is a huge structure."

Tearing the building down probably wouldn't be economical unless the university intends to build a new residence hall on the site, Holt said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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