Problems include roof leaks, broken water pipes, deteriorating dormitories
What happens to a maintenance project deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Apparently, deferred maintenance projects don’t dry up. They add up and become problems that cost more than half a billion.
Tom Quasney, USC’s associate vice president for facilities, said at the Monday board of trustees retreat that a facilities management consulting firm’s study rated USC’s infrastructure as poor, and that it would require $560 million to bring the university up to even a satisfactory level.
It could cost up to $1 billion to get a higher rating. A satisfactory rating would require an investment of $56 million per year over the next decade, along with $3 million more annually for other maintenance needs.
Quasney said that plan wasn’t realistic, saying he doesn’t have the staff and that the campus would look like a “war zone” from construction. Instead, he suggested USC spend $10 million annually on fixing its buildings and grounds, $1 million annually on staff to manage these projects and $4.5 million annually on operating and management.
Until last year, the facilities department only received $1 million a year for deferred maintenance projects. Now, it receives $1.9 million, but Quasney said he has 15 projects to spend that on. With that level of funding, facilities can only respond to failures and accomplish small projects.
“We’ve had years of underfunding and higher priorities, and we have been doing very little preventive maintenance, and then what happens is the systems begin to fail,” Quasney said. “What we’re doing today is reactive maintenance; we’re running things until they break. We do replace filters on air conditioning systems, but they may have to be replaced once every quarter, and we do it once every year.”
This neglect has led to many problems, including four holes in the law school roof in addition to the infamous one revealed last semester, a recent flooding in Lieber College caused by a pipe busting and a $10,000 pump breaking in the basement of Wardlaw College that inflicted $250,000 worth of damage with 2 inches of water.
“We get over 26,000 work requests every year. That’s over 120 every day we’re at work,” Quasney said. “It’s gone up [by] about 1,500 in four years.”
Currently, facilities is finishing $46 million worth of work on the Jones Physical Science Center, is underway on $12 million worth on the Health Sciences Building and on $1 million worth on the Nada Apartments and is planning $5 million worth on the Thompson Student Health Center and $3 million worth on McClintock Hall. Quasney said those values represent the amount of deferred maintenance required for each building, not necessarily the amount that has been spent or will be spent.
Quasney said that with $10 million a year, facilities could fix a whole building at once instead of addressing parts. A plan to increase tuition and fees by 1 percent to pay for renovations was floated before the budget cuts but failed as soon as state appropriations dropped.
But President Harris Pastides said the university didn’t have $10 million in the projected budget at this time.
“Together we’re going to decide how much money we’re going to raise, but if we can’t raise tuition by a healthy amount, then give us your guidance about what not to do,” Pastides said to the board. “You can see right now there is no way to take a bite out of deferred maintenance without bringing in new revenue or shifting it from another part of the university.“