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U. embarks on $41 million renovation of utilities

Project will include water pipe replacement

Construction began Monday to replace the University's high temperature hot water distribution pipe, commencing the first phase in a 10-year renovation of utilities that will cost Brown over $41 million, according to administrators.

The replacement of the high temperature hot water distribution pipe will interrupt traffic on four College Hill streets, according to Facilities Management's construction plans. The plans call for replacing the piping that runs from the central heat plant at 135 Lloyd Ave. down Hope Street, along Cushing Street and across Thayer Street.

In addition to replacing piping, the utilities upgrade will include installing regional chilling plants and replacing electrical transformers and wiring. The regional chilling plants will provide air-conditioning for campus buildings including the J. Walter Wilson building, the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center and the new Life Sciences Building.

The deterioration of the University's infrastructure was visible in February when a leak in the high temperature hot water distribution pipe necessitated emergency repairs on the Main Green. But the University is not upgrading solely because of the February leak, said Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior advisor to the president.

"Basically, the last couple of years, people have been working on a master plan for the central utilities systems," Spies said. "Many of the components have reached the end of their useful life," he added.

Director of Engineering Carlos Fernandez led the team that assessed the University's infrastructure. The team produced a report for the administration that analyzed the various utilities around campus and set construction priorities.

Fernandez said he believes the work to replace the piping will continue into 2007. The good news, Fernandez said, is that the piping excavations that will affect streets around campus and the water flow to campus will be finished by November. At that point, construction will be re-routed so the main system is unaffected, he said.

Replacing the high temperature hot water distribution pipe will cost the University $20 million alone, Fernandez said.

Bidding for several contracts to renovate the utilities took place in February. Facilities Management has funds earmarked for the utilities renovations that will last until 2010, at which point the University will need to allocate more money to the maintenance budget, Fernandez said. "I don't have any doubts the University will find funding for the next phase," he added.

The University is paying for the utilities renovations primarily through borrowing, though some funds raised during the ongoing Campaign for Academic Enrichment will go toward the effort, Fernandez said.

Spies said the University borrows periodically to maintain facilities.

"Unfortunately we haven't found any donors interested in piping upgrades," he added.

At its April 6 meeting, the City Council paved the way for Brown to begin construction when it approved an easement allowing the University to repair the high temperature hot water distribution pipe under several city streets.

Even though Brown's construction plans include improving sidewalks after excavations are complete, Ward 1 City Councilman David Segal said Providence is not helping to pay for the construction.

Segal worked with University administrators on obtaining the easement from the City Council. "We had relaxed conversations about who needs to be contacted," he said, adding that he "can't imagine that they'll have any problems."

Spies said the University has notified residents on College Hill about the construction.

Barbara Harris, president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association, declined to comment on the construction because she has not heard from neighbors on the issue.

Spies said he expects the new utilities system to last 25 to 50 years. "But, replacement schedules depend on individual parts," he added.

"No one is happy about it but they are understanding of the need to do it," he said.



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