UW-Stevens Point’s Albertson Hall becoming unsafe, UW System calls for replacement

Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 6:40 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - The University of Wisconsin System, UW-Stevens Point students, staff, and Stevens Point community members are pleading with the state legislature to approve funding to replace the campus’ Albertson Hall. The cries come after the legislature delayed Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed $2.4 billion budget for state building projects last month.

Friday, UW System president, Gov. Tommy Thompson toured the building saying the state the building was in was unacceptable.

“I don’t want anybody, any employee, any chancellor, any student to be in a building on our campus, ladies and gentlemen, that’s unsafe and this building is starting to get unsafe,” he said.

He, university chancellor, Thomas Gibson, the student government president, Colin Nygren, UWSP staff, and Stevens Point community members detailed the problems.

“The foundation of the building is deteriorating. The building doesn’t have the strength to support its own weight,” Nygren said.

That is seen through cracks in the building and cracks in the windows as the structural load shifts. UWSP campus planner, Allison Henke said when they tried replacing one of the cracked windows, it shattered because the frames were barring so much of the building’s weight. They are now no longer replacing the windows for that reason and instead are putting a film over the cracked windows to keep them from shattering. Friday, another window cracked.

Those are some of the more visual problems. Paul Hasler, the university’s facilities director said the two biggest problems deal with how air gets into the building and how the building’s sprinkler system works. The at-grade air entry is one of the biggest threats because the fresh air that comes into the building is nearly on the ground level and easily accessible to anyone. Having it near the ground allows more dirt, pollen, and other natural contaminants and could allow someone with ill intent to introduce contaminants into the building without much hassle.

The sprinkler system, Hasler said, has developed severe corrosion and debris within the pipes. There is literally writing on some of the rusty pipes that say “leak.” The system is also very complicated, with only a handful of people knowing how to operate it. Hasler said it has passed the annual certification so far, but by their calculation, that will not be the case for much longer. He is concerned that in the event of a fire, the sprinkler system would not work properly.

The building also flooded in 2017, threatening the university’s computer system. The deteriorating cement areas around the building cause hazards to all people who use it, especially those with disabilities. The lack of proper control over the HVAC system also threatens historical documents within the building due to uncontrolled humidity.

“This represents a major public safety issue for members of our campus and the general public,” Gibson stated.

The deterioration, though, is not for a lack of knowledge or care for the system; it is for a lack of funding.

“We have been looking at remodeling it for about eight years,” Hasler urged.

The university has gone to the state numerous times with requests for renovation funding and never receives what it needs to make the necessary projects.

“Chancellor Patterson at the time and myself went down to Madison to testify in front of the joint finance committee to stress to them how important it was to get this on the block,” Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza said about his involvement two years ago. “This problem could have been stopped years ago.”

The problems are now at a point where Gov. Thompson said renovation no longer makes financial sense. Currently, about 90% of the building needs renovation. the cost to renovate would be about $90 million. The cost to tear down and build a new building that not only fixes the problems associated with the current Albertson Hall, along with providing more cost-saving energy efficiency, and better suits students’ and community members’ needs is about $96 million.

If the legislature approves the state infrastructure funding, the goal would be to demolish the building in the fall of 2022 with the completion of the project in the spring of 2024.

“We got to make sure that the students are safe, that they’re going to be able to go into a library, be able to check out their books, check out the data, get the advice and the council from their advisors, be able to set up their futures,” Gov. Thompson urged. “So that they say, you know, I had the greatest learning experience possible at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point.”

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