Trustees Award Contract for Williamson Hall Phase Two

Williamson Hall 10-15-2020
Williamson Hall, as it appeared on Oct. 15, 2020, before the beginning of phase two of a project to return it to service.

Phase two of the Williamson Hall project at Arkansas Tech University will be carried out by Alessi Keyes Construction.

The ATU Board of Trustees awarded a $2,658,919 construction contract to the Maumelle-based firm during its regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, Oct. 15.

Reconstruction and restoration will account for phase two of the project. Phase one, which included stabilization, selective demolition and testing, drying to overcome water damage and environmental procedures to ensure the safety of the building, was completed earlier this fall.

Grant funding from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council and insurance reimbursements are assisting ATU in completing the reconstruction and restoration of Williamson Hall.

Barring possible delays from weather and/or the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, ATU hopes to return Williamson Hall to service during the fall 2021 semester.

Opened in 1940 as the home of the National Youth Administration (NYA) headquarters for Arkansas, the building that came to be known as Williamson Hall reverted to ATU ownership after the NYA was discontinued in 1943.

Arkansas Tech students from the 1940s through the early 1970s knew the building as the home of the fine arts program. Marvin Williamson, namesake of the facility and the first band director in Tech history, taught there, as did his successor, Gene Witherspoon.

The studios for radio station KXRJ, which later became KARV, were located in Williamson Hall from the time it went on the air in February 1947 until 1957.

U.S. Army ROTC students trained inside Williamson Hall. One of Tech’s most decorated ROTC alumni is Major General William Wofford, who returned to the front lawn of Williamson Hall as Adjutant General of the Arkansas National Guard on Oct. 26, 2013, to help re-introduce the tradition of Jerry the Bulldog to Arkansas Tech following a 76-year absence.

More recent Arkansas Tech students and alumni know Williamson Hall as the home of the ATU Department of Parks, Recreation and Hospitality Administration.

Williamson Hall was named to the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 8, 1992, and was in the midst of a major renovation project when it caught fire shortly after 4 p.m. on April 3, 2019.

Insurance reviews of the fire damage concluded on July 30, 2019. The ATU Board of Trustees voted on Jan. 16, 2020, to move forward with a historic preservation project to restore Williamson Hall and return it to service as an academic building.

“It will be a joyous and long-anticipated day when we celebrate the re-opening of Williamson Hall,” said Dr. Robin E. Bowen, ATU president. “Preserving this aspect of our university history is an important and worthwhile endeavor. I am grateful for the leadership of our Board of Trustees and the persistence of all involved as we have worked together to achieve the goal of returning Williamson Hall to service. We look forward to the continued progress of this project over the next 12 months.”

Restructuring Principles and Goals

As a result of an informational item presented by Bowen and Walter Branson, ATU interim vice president for administration and finance, trustees adopted a resolution that supports the guiding principles and goals of a restructuring process that is underway as part of a five-year program evaluation and budget initiative at Arkansas Tech.

“We appreciate the board’s support of these principles and goals, which will guide us as we build our fiscal year 2022 budget and develop proactive strategies for the continued, long-term financial stability of Arkansas Tech University,” said Bowen. “We have been studying shifting demographics and demand in higher education for some time. The circumstances of the pandemic have caused those shifts to accelerate, and we have a fiduciary responsibility to take action so that we may continue our mission of student access and student success.”

The board resolution also provides support for an initiative designed to address a projected 8 percent budget shortfall over the next five years, with the majority of that occurring in fiscal year 2022. The shortfall will be addressed through revenue enhancements and expenditure reductions supported by the planning principles and goals.

“Making the majority of the needed changes in year one of our restructuring will allow us to align budgets and programs for the long term rather than making a series of gradual cuts,” said Bowen. “This approach creates a greater sense of certainty for our future and thus allows our faculty and staff to avoid year after year of anxiety about further significant budget adjustments. It is the most compassionate approach to what is a difficult and necessary task.”

The guiding principles defined in the ATU Board of Trustees resolution are:

(1) Student success and access is core to our mission; at Arkansas Tech University Every Student Counts.
(2) We are and will continue to be first and foremost a teaching institution.
(3) Arkansas Tech University will continue to maintain responsible stewardship over the financial health of the institution.
(4) We honor our technological traditions as evidenced by our name and programs.
(5) As members of the larger community, we strive for the betterment of the university and all it serves.
(6) A systems approach that facilitates decision-making based on the best future for the university, not a particular division, unit or program, will be utilized.
(7) Broad involvement and transparency through the distributed leadership model and shared governance are important parts of the decision-making process.

The restructuring goals stated in the ATU Board of Trustees resolution are:

(1) Establish an environment where efficiencies and effectiveness are realized in university programming and services.
(2) Expand stackable degree programs to serve individuals throughout their careers.
(3) Provide and create program offerings, both academic and co-curricular, and assure current program offerings meet the needs of students and align with market demands.
(4) Base decisions on the systemic impact on the institution.
(5) Identify new target populations for recruitment and enrollment and services to support them.
(6) Provide personnel who are impacted by the restructuring with available support.

In Other Business

The ATU Board of Trustees also approved the following on Thursday:

*creation of a Certificate of Proficiency in technical and professional communication effective spring 2021 as proposed by the College of Arts and Humanities, the Department of English and World Languages and the Department of Communication and Journalism;

*a request by the College of Business and the Department of Management and Marketing to offer the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in management 100 percent online in addition to the existing in-person delivery method effective spring 2021;

*addition of a concentration in emergency administration and management and deletion of the concentration in workforce technology relative to the Bachelor of Arts degree in organizational leadership, effective spring 2021 as requested by the College of eTech and the Department of Professional Studies;

*establishment of an Associate of Science degree in manufacturing effective fall 2021 as proposed by the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Department of Mechanical Engineering;

*renewal of ATU employee health, dental and vision insurance plans through Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield for calendar year 2021 at a rate that will save the institution approximately $259,158 and save employees who contribute to their premiums an average of $31 per month as compared to calendar year 2020;

*changes in the maximum amounts for ATU employee health flexible spending accounts related to participant annual contribution ($2,750), carryover amount ($550) and carryover time limit (two years) in accordance with 2021 tax regulations;

*refinancing of series 2013 and 218A student fee revenue bonds as well as series 2012, 2013 and 2013A capital improvement revenue bonds at estimated savings to the university of $2,685,490 gross and $1,756,388 net present value over the life of the bonds as well as a reduction in annual debt service expense of approximately $120,000;

*establishment of a provisional student support services advisor position that will be funded by a federal TRIO grant and will assist students in the new Teacher Preparation Student Support Services program;

*establishment of three provisional positions that will be funded by a federal TRIO grant and will facilitate the new ATU-Ozark Student Support Services program;

*a request to transfer $21,000 from the ATU-Ozark Campus educational and general fund to support academic year 2020-21 programs by the ATU-Ozark Student Government Association;

*and designation of $35,750 to match an Arkansas Department of Transportation grant for walking trail rehabilitation and completion at ATU-Ozark Campus.

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

*Hunter Bramlitt, counselor, effective Sept. 1, 2020; Jessica Brown, project/program specialist for adult education through ATU-Ozark Campus, effective July 1, 2020; Jonathan Brown, visiting workforce faculty instructor for physical therapist assistant, effective Oct. 1, 2020; Lindsey Clark, visiting assistant professor of nursing, for the 2020-21 academic year; Dr. Tolga Ensari, visiting assistant professor of computer and information science, for the 2020-21 academic year; and Dr. Johnette Moody, visiting associate professor of computer and information science, for the 2020-21 academic year.

Wendy Condley was promoted from legal services specialist to payroll manager effective Sept. 17, 2020.

Trustees accepted resignations from the following ATU employees:

*Laura Bewley, case manager in the ATU Health and Wellness Center, effective Sept. 30, 2020; Lindelle Fraser, coordinator of graduate student support services, effective Aug. 31, 2020; Trina Hayes, workforce education faculty of physical therapist assistant, effective Sept. 30, 2020; Baylee Linker, Arkansas Tech Career Center academic counselor, effective Oct. 9, 2020; Dr. Zhaoli Liu, assistant professor of nursing, effective Sept. 1, 2020; Dr. Mrigendra Rajput, assistant professor of biology, effective Dec. 12, 2020; and Dr. Juliette Walker, instructor of chemistry, effective Dec. 15, 2020.