Trustees Approve Williamson Hall Restoration Project

Williamson Hall 4-4-2019
This photo of Williamson Hall was captured on April 4, 2019, the day after a fire damaged the historic structure.

Arkansas Tech University is moving forward with a historic preservation project to restore Williamson Hall and return it to service as an academic building in time for the fall 2021 semester.

During its meeting on Thursday, Jan. 16, the ATU Board of Trustees voted unanimously to:

*hire SCM Architects to provide architectural services for the project;

*authorize Dr. Robin E. Bowen, ATU president, and/or Bernadette Hinkle, ATU vice president for administration and finance, to work with insurance representatives to obtain financial settlement;

*transfer up to $1.5 million from the unappropriated fund balance for the construction project as warranted due to unknown insurance settlement recovery;

*and pursue an agreement with the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) to change the scope of grant funding to include stabilization of the east side of Williamson Hall in order to utilize the grant funds remaining on the project.

Williamson Hall was already under renovation on the ATU campus in Russellville when it was damaged by fire on April 3, 2019. The facility was released to the university on July 30, 2019, following the completion of insurance reviews.

During its October 2019 meeting, the ATU Board of Trustees authorized the hiring of SCM Architects for limited purposes to evaluate the scope and cost of renovating Williamson Hall to completion as well as the likelihood of maintaining the facility’s historical designation.

SCM Architects presented the findings of that preliminary work during the first board meeting of 2020. Facts discovered by SCM Architects included:

*the roof and attic in the historic core of the building are a total loss;

*the second floor structure is approximately 85 percent intact, but has extensive water, smoke and fire damage;

*the distinctive porch structure, porch roof and east exterior wall, while damaged and partially collapsed, appear to be in “good, salvageable condition;”

*due to the water damage and subsequent exposure, there is concern as to the functionality of many of the mechanical units and the safety and functionality of the electrical systems to the extent that, with the exception of the dining room and the kitchen area, total electrical rewiring of the facility will likely be necessary;

*reuse of air handlers, boiler, chiller, pumps and water heaters is expected with inspection, testing and minor repair;

*each fan coil unit will require removal, inspection and testing;

*and fan coil units found to be functional may be reused after considerations are given to warranty coverage.

Brad Place, lead design principal for SCM Architects, told trustees that he and his colleagues were “pleasantly surprised with what we saw” during their review of Williamson Hall.

Place informed the board that the reconstruction and historic restoration process will encompass five major areas of effort: stabilization, selective demolition and testing, drying to overcome water damage sustained during the effort to extinguish the fire, environmental procedures to ensure the safety of the building and reconstruction.

Reconstruction is scheduled to begin in October 2020 and conclude during summer 2021.

Based upon figures provided by insurance and architecture experts retained by the university, ATU Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Kennedy estimated that the university will be able to retain the historic character of Williamson Hall and return it to service at an out-of-pocket cost to the university of approximately $600,000.

Opened in March 1940, Williamson Hall was constructed by the National Youth Administration to serve as its state headquarters. Once the facility was no longer needed by the NYA, it reverted to the possession of Arkansas Tech. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places Sept. 8, 1992.

The structure is named for Marvin Williamson, who served as the initial director of bands at Arkansas Tech from 1913-50. Williamson Hall’s primary occupant is the ATU Department of Parks, Recreation and Hospitality Administration, which will continue to operate from a temporary location at 404 N. El Paso Ave. until the restoration project is complete.

In other business on Thursday, the ATU Board of Trustees approved:

*demolition of all ATU-owned structures at 901 and 911 N. Denver Ave. at a cost of $121,420;

*formalization of the existing ATU credit hour policy in a written document in accordance with requirements from the U.S. Department of Education and The Higher Learning Commission;

*formalization of existing ATU practices related to minimum qualifications for faculty in a written document in accordance with requirements from The Higher Learning Commission;

*a request from the ATU Department of Residence Life to bid and complete housing renovation projects in summer 2020;

*bylaws for a new athletic hall of fame at ATU;

*and a letter of notification from ATU-Ozark Campus that seeks to change the name of the university’s cardiovascular technology program to cardiac sonography.

In personnel matters, the ATU Board of Trustees approved the hiring of the following new, full-time ATU employees:

*Josh Clem, major gifts officer in the ATU Division of Advancement, effective Jan. 2, 2020; Sherry Hesson, industry training specialist for adult education at ATU-Ozark Campus, effective Jan. 1, 2020; Danielle Hodges, interim director of teacher education student services in the ATU College of Education, effective Jan. 2, 2020; Mark Moultrup, coordinator for student and guest operations in the ATU Division of Student Affairs, effective Jan. 21, 2020; Dr. Richard Schoephoerster, dean of the ATU Graduate College and professor of engineering, effective Feb. 3, 2020; and Dr. Georgeanna Wright, visiting assistant professor of health information management, for the spring 2020 semester and assistant professor of health information management for the 2020-21 academic year.

Brandie Gibbs, who previously served as assistant director for undergraduate recruitment in the ATU Office of Admissions, was approved to take on the role of enrollment management technology and communications specialist effective Jan. 2, 2020.

Mike Bogue was confirmed as the new director of the APEX Center for tutoring and student success on the ATU campus in Russellville. Bogue has served on the ATU staff since 1993, most recently as coordinator of student success at ATU-Ozark Campus since 2011. His new appointment is effective Feb. 1, 2020.

Trustees accepted the resignations of Laura Flake, director of teacher education student services in the ATU College of Education, effective Dec. 26, 2019; and Paul Smith, director of athletic communications and associate director of athletics, effective Feb. 4, 2020.

The board accepted a retirement request from Dr. Joseph Stoeckel, professor of fisheries science. Stoeckel has been a member of the ATU faculty since 1992. His retirement will be effective May 9, 2020.