Lincoln University Curators told school officials Wednesday to begin planning for replacing Dawson Hall, the 10-story residence hall that's nearly 50 years old and facing expensive maintenance issues.
"We're looking at $10 million just to renovate," LU Design and Construction Executive Director Sheila Gassner told the board. "And most campuses are not doing a high-rise (residence hall) anymore."
The curators' discussion came during a conference call where they approved spending $645,000 on replacing air conditioning chillers for Dawson and Founders Halls.
With identical 5-0 votes, the curators approved two contracts with Columbia's J.L. Crum Corp., which submitted the lowest bid among five for the Dawson residence hall project, $349,500, and the lowest bid among six bidders for the Founders classroom building, $296,000.
Except for the Wilson Group, based in Greenwood in Jackson County, all the bidders were from Jefferson City.
Dawson Hall's future was the main subject discussed during the meeting, beginning with a question of spending $186,400 to replace an electrical transformer and switch inside the building.
"The (current) electrical transformer is still working," Gassner said. "However, it is nearing 50 years old and is original to the building.
"The engineers think it could possibly last eight-10 more years, but if it does go out, we're looking at having to move the students out of the hall, because it would take quite awhile to get a new transformer.
"This one is obsolete and parts are not available."
LU officials have talked for several years about replacing the 10-story high-rise building.
In addition to the air conditioning equipment and the electrical transformer, Gassner said other immediate needs for Dawson Hall include plumbing and sewer pipe issues, and the elevators.
Board President Marvin Teer said: "Part of our long-term development is to replace Dawson. I think all of us agree that that's got to happen sooner rather than later."
Even with the nearly $350,000 expense for the new chiller equipment, Gassner said, much of it could be salvaged and re-used in other LU facilities or in a new building.
"Reusing it would be a scheduling issue," she said.
However, a new transformer can't be used again easily — because it provides the electrical power to a building, so it's one of the first things to be installed and one of the last to be removed from any building.
Teer asked Gassner to have a proposal ready by the board's February meeting, but she said they'll need more time.
"I think it would be very quick to have it by April meeting," she said.
Teer said: "I think sooner is better than later. We've got land near the Honors Dorm."
Several curators said they'd like to see new housing units on the northwest corner of Locust and East Atchison streets, south of the Scruggs Residence Hall, on a site originally cleared for the Wellness Center and Boys & Girls Club until they were built on Lafayette Street instead.
"We have to make sure we have a very strong financing plan," Curator Herbert Hardwick, of Kansas City, reminded colleagues. "We just want to make sure the financing strategy is a very good one so that we could expedite it and make sure we can do what we want to do."
Gassner told the News Tribune Dawson holds about 330 students, so its replacement should offer at least that many beds.
One of the questions that must be answered before planning and construction could begin, she said: "Is that in one building or is that in two buildings?"
Gassner added the cost could be $20 million to $35 million.
"It depends on layout and on what number of beds we decide to go with."
Some of those decisions could fall to Lincoln's new president.
The Presidential Search Committee met Wednesday afternoon in a closed session to review applications received so far.
Monroe "Bud" Moseley, a vice president for Boston-based Isaacson, Miller, which is LU's consulting search firm, said a complete breakdown of the applications received should be available in late January.