12 Jul

By Adam Cavalier, WV Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia University Institute of Technology is undergoing a transformation as it renovates several buildings on campus. That transformation isn’t without hiccups.

Renovating the 106-year-old administrative building Old Main is turning out to be a tall task for facilities workers. Allen Heinze is giving a tour, and the least of the worries is what to do with an entryway.

Instead, Heinze said it’s figuring out what to do with problems that keep cropping up.

“Every time you turn around you’ve got problems,” Heinze said.

“You just hope that you have enough money in your budget to take care of it. Every time we turn around, you’ve got to put more out to pay for it. It’s just like the cable out back for telecommunications. Whoever put it in only put it in 3-4 inches deep. They never marked it, they never labeled it. So when we took the concrete saws across, we cut it. It’s a constant battle, every time you turn around not knowing what’s there.”

Much of the work being done on Old Main comes through the help of a $3 million Higher Education Policy Commission grant.

WVU Tech spokesperson Adrienne King has been a bit nomadic because of the changes. Her office is usually in Old Main, but she’s migrated for the summer to Orndorff Hall which houses many of the Montgomery college’s science classes. As King traverses one of the steep hills that lead up to Old Main, she said the electrical changes alone will make a major difference.

“The folks who aren’t here in the summer, aren’t used to the way things were with the power, don’t understand how big of a deal this is,” King said. “We’d lose power very frequently. It gets hot, people are using air conditioners, and they’d blow the power. It’ll be wonderful to have it upgraded to the point where the campus needs it.”

So that means the facilities department will be able to isolate buildings to shut off instead of a campus-wide power outage occurring. Other changes include a new Student Success Center on the fourth floor of Vining Library and Wifi in the dorms.

Those improvements have seen the first steps in their implementation. It’s not all construction either, on July 23rd; crews will begin demolishing the coed dormitory. Through it all, King said Old Main is certainly staying.

“Whenever you deal with an old building like this, you can anticipate, but you have to anticipate the unanticipatable,” King said.

“There’s no way of knowing what you’re getting into when you get inside of that, but it’s a landmark for the city and the school, it’s so critical. For the school and alumni, this is what they relate to. Everybody who knows Tech, they think of Old Main. Being able to look back and know we’re putting the money into that to make sure it’ll be here for years to come, that’s so important.”

Heinze says part of Old Main’s problem is that nothing in it is standard.

“They’ve had contractors come in and patch this in and patch that in,” Heinze said. “Up in Morgantown, you have Stewart Hall and E. Moore Hall; both are about the same for historic buildings. It just takes a lot more money when you’re dealing with historic buildings and both of those are about the same.”

But King doesn’t seem to mind having a change of scenery while the work is done.

“It’s progress, we’re moving forward. Everyone on campus has had to play nomad working around the planned outages and as they repaved roads around campus. But it’s all progress for our students and the future of the school.”

Old Main alone will have through more than $6 million worth of remodeling and renovations once all of Tech’s long-term projects are completed.

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