USM closing dorm to save money

Posted May 04, 2014, at 3:59 p.m.
Last modified May 05, 2014, at 5:34 a.m.
Theodora Kalikow
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Theodora Kalikow

GORHAM, Maine — The University of Southern Maine will close Dickey Wood Hall at the end of this school year in an effort to reduce costs and pass a balanced budget for fiscal year 2015, director of public affairs Bob Caswell said.

The university estimates it will save up to $250,000 by closing the dorm.

Caswell said Dickey Wood Hall can accommodate 360 students, but this spring only 40 students live in the dorm. They have been concentrated on two floors, while the rest of the building is closed off and vacant.

“Financially, it doesn’t make any sense to keep it open,” Caswell said. He said it will not be a challenge to accommodate students in the other six dorms at the Gorham campus.

The university has not decided whether it will renovated and reopen the building or demolish it, Caswell said.

“I think it’s fair to say it has not aged well,” he added. It first opened in September 1970.

USM is also considering closing the Stone House in Freeport, which houses the Stonecoast master of fine arts program, according to the USM Free Press.

The building, which was designed in 1910, was listed as “a good candidate for removal” in a report by an outside consultant that was presented to the University of Maine System’s trustees in February. The report stated that UMS has too large a physical footprint for the number of people it serves and included a list buildings that see low use and are in poor condition.

Caswell said the Stone House is used 40 days a year and that the university will determine later this spring whether to keep it open in the 2014-15 school year.

USM is in the process of eliminating $14 million, or 10 percent of its fiscal year 2015 budget. In an effort to do so, President Theodora Kalikow has proposed eliminating three programs — American and New England studies, geosciences, and arts and humanities at the school’s Lewiston-Auburn College facility. Twelve professors received notice in March that they would be laid off, but those layoffs have since been taken off the table and faculty have been asked to weigh in on where they think additional cuts should be made.

The system office will contribute $7 million of its rainy day funds to USM to help balance the budget.

This is not the first time USM has closed buildings to save money. Within the last five years, the building that housed the university’s continuing education program and another dorm, called Portland Hall, were sold, Caswell said.

And in 1992, Dickey Wood Hall was closed temporarily because of a low demand for on-campus housing. It reopened about three years later as that demand increased, according to Caswell.

USM can currently accommodate 1,500 students in its Gorham campus residence halls. This spring 1,117 students lived on campus, which is up from 950 in 2011.

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