September is drawing to a close and construction on Brock University’s new Arnie Lowenberger Residence is still continuing. Administration officials – from the president down – are remaining tight-lipped about the financial fallout resulting from delays in Lownberger’s completion. Brock University President David Atkinson is now refusing to comment on the residence, even though vice-president finance and administration Steven Pillar says Atkinson has told other administration officials that he should be referred to concerning questions about Lowenberger.
Pillar says he has no idea how much money is being spent in total, either on Lowenberger’s completion, or on housing the 300 plus students in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls hotels. “We have kept track of the costs and we have them identified individually, but we have not totalled them as of yet,” he says.
Initially, Lowenberger was budgeted to cost $17.7 million, however, Pillar says the cost of the residence will now exceed that total: “It’s going to go over, no question about it.”
Grant Dobson, Brock’s executive director of external affairs, and Jamie Fleming, Brock’s director of residences and food services, say they are also unaware of the total amount of money being spent on housing students and construction.
Both men say housing students in hotels will result in “significantly” higher costs for the university. “We have a lower rate, but we are still spending significantly more [than if students were housed in residence],” says Fleming, unable to give information regarding either hotel rates or the amount of money being spent to house students in the hotels.
“We do know the hotels have been competitive. We do not know the rates,” says Dobson. He continues by saying that he also cannot say what the exact dollar figure of housing the students will be, although the university is working to put the numbers together.
Fleming says that the department of residences is covering the cost of housing students off campus; he refused to comment on whether legal action would be taken against Gespro, the firm managing the construction,
However, regarding any future involvement with the firm, Fleming says “Well, we have had some concerns about their ability to project their completion date. We received repeated assurances – and it [Lowenberger] wasn’t done.”
Pillar takes a more concilliatory position with Gespro. He says the university is working constructively with Gespro to get the project finished as soon as possible, and he refuses to address any concerns the administration has with the competency of the firm.
“We haven’t even talked about [Gespro paying some of the costs]; that is something we will discuss once the students are settled in the residence,” says Pillar.
Before students can get into Lowenberger they will have to cope with living in hotels; Pillar says that he cannot say for certain that students will not be forced to move again before Lowenberger is ready.
“Our hope is to not have to move them again,” he says.