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Marshall Center renovation plans progressing

USF is one very large step closer to allocating slightly more than $13 million in Capital Improvement Trust Fund money. The CITF Advisory Committee is proposing to President Judy Genshaft that $12,310,036 be allocated to the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Enhancement Project and that the remaining $753,500 be allocated to Campus Recreation for various construction projects.

The money for the MCEP is to be specifically allocated toward six separate parts of the project: architect fees ($4,400,000), MCEP phase I furniture, fixtures and equipment ($3,800,000), student activities theater ($2,700,000), plaza, walks and landscaping ($830,000), the demolition of the current Special Events Center ($430,000) and new parking to replace lost parking spots on Cedar Drive ($150,000).

The MCEP has been in the works – but progressing slowly – since 1998. Students have been paying for the project since 2003 through their tuition payments. There is a $20 flat fee for students each semester and a $1.50 per credit hour Marshall Center Enhancement Fee. The CITF windfall is considered by some to be the big jump needed to get the MCEP going.

“The biggest impact we felt we could make would be to get the Marshall Center up and rolling,” said student body Vice President Sameer Ahmed at the final CITF Advisory Committee meeting.

The $753,000 for Campus Recreation would be slated for three separate projects.

$605,000 would go towards a new “resort-style” swimming pool to replace the Andros Pool by the Residence Halls in the northeastern part of campus. The pool is nearly as old as USF itself. It is under threat of closure by the county due to age-related health and safety hazards.

“We’re on borrowed time right now with that Andros Pool,” said Ron Hanke, director of Facilities Planning. “If the University wants us to have a pool out there for the resident students, this is going to have to be done.”

There was a $355,000 option that included refurbishing the pool by replacing all of the working parts but leaving the style as is. The committee chose the resort-style pool for, among other things, its ability to attract new students drawn to the Sunshine State for school.

$75,000 would be allocated to building a climbing tower to finish the ropes course at Riverfront Park. It should be usable as a climbing wall as well as a rappelling wall. The inside of the tower is set to be climbable.

Of the rest of the CITF money given to Campus Recreation, $73,500, would be used for the renovation of the current boathouse at Riverfront Park. The boathouse was built in 1992 and has been outgrown, according to Hanke. Campus Recreation received $25,000 from SG in the 2005-2006 Activity and Services budget.

Student Health Services also requested funds from the committee, but they were denied direct money because they had no formal plan of what to do with the money. The committee recommended they receive $1.2 million in CITF money in 2006 that the University is not eligible to receive from the state until then. That $1.2 million would be used to perform studies into how to reconcile the issues SHS is currently facing, such as serious overcrowding and mounting cutbacks in services.

The school has been working on making a decision on how to spend the CITF for about a year now. It was originally going to be allocated entirely to the new MCEP. The decision was made without consulting the student body or hearing ideas from the various campus agencies and groups who might need the money; the CITF Advisory Committee was formed in order to make sure the decision was made with more outside input.

USF President Judy Genshaft’s Cabinet discussed the official recommendation, but the final decision on what to do with the funds is up to Genshaft herself. Her decision will then be voted on by the state Legislature.

Students pay a $2.44 per-credit-hour fee towards the CITF. The state Legislature saves the money in a fund that grows each year. Approximately once every three years the money is given back to the school and the school decides what to do with it. The money has to be used for physical projects, such as remodeling, construction or demolition.

Genshaft’s next Cabinet meeting will be held tomorrow morning. It was not clear at press time whether the CITF recommendations would be discussed at the meeting. Students are prohibited from attending Presidential Cabinet meetings.

According to USF spokeswoman Michelle Carlyon, the meeting is exempt from Florida’s Sunshine Laws because the Cabinet consists of advisers and is not a voting body.

“We just hope that everything happens quickly so the students can get the new building as quickly as possible because USF really needs it,” said Joe Synovec, the assistant director of the Marshall Center.