Western Illinois University has received $9.5 million from the state of Illinois for capital improvement projects. But, that's just a drop in the bucket of what it would take to address the backlog of deferred maintenance.
William Polley, Interim Vice President for Administrative Services, said Western has about $400 million worth of deferred maintenance, which is work put on the back burner due to a lack of available funding.
Polley detailed the size of the deferred maintenance backlog while addressing the Faculty Senate. “When you think about the appropriated budget size [of the university] being around $120 million -- it is more than three years worth of that appropriated spending,” he said.
Polley suggesting thinking about deferred maintenance as a bill that hasn’t come due yet. “We are borrowing against the future with that deferred maintenance. That bill will come due in bits and pieces, dribs and drabs, here and there, when a roof starts leaking or a chiller fails,” Polley said.
Polley said, for example, two chillers have failed this year, including the one in the university’s Malpass Library. He said the libary's chiller was an original piece of equipment in the 40 year old building.
He said the university also lost a transformer over the summer that dated back to the 1960s.
“When those things happen, even something as small as a transformer, which of course has significant impact, is going to be at least a five figure repair bill, if not six. And when you are talking about multiple roofs and chillers, you are talking about over a million dollars for those kinds of incidents.” Polley said.
Polley said given the university’s limited reserves, emergency repairs can present a large risk.
“It destroys our ability to float the state if an appropriation payment is late," he said. "Or what if it’s a cold winter and we need to spend more on utilities than we did last winter?”
He said the $9.5 million from the state will go toward replacing chillers in several buildings, repairing roofs, and replacing water piping in three buildings.