BANGOR, Maine — The University of Maine System board of trustees will get a glimpse at how efforts to reduce the system’s footprint are proceeding during a two-day regular meeting that starts Sunday at the University of Maine in Orono.
When the meeting opens on Sunday afternoon, Sightlines, a facilities consultant, will update system officials on findings released last year.
The data in Sightlines’ update indicates the same problems and challenges still face the system: Too much space for a university system of its size and a substantial backlog of aging infrastructure in dire need of repair. The system, however, has made some progress during the past year toward “arresting” that trend, Sightlines officials are expected to say.
For example, the report shows a marked increase in investment in existing spaces versus new spaces and a leveling of what had been a steady decline in overall net asset value of the system’s facilities.
Underneath this push to “right-size” is the system’s continued fiscal challenges and urgent desire to shed itself of excess, UMS leaders have said.
Sightlines is paid $107,000 annually to evaluate the system’s facilities and provide campus-specific analyses.
During Monday’s meeting trustees are expected to authorize system and university officials to explore the sales of up to 10 properties in Bangor, Old Town, Portland and Machias.
One of the properties University of Maine System Chancellor James Page hopes to shed by the end of the year is the system offices in downtown Bangor. About 100 system employees would relocate to other locations on the University of Maine campus. The details of that plan are still in the works as part of Page’s One University initiative.
In Portland, the system could decide to sell off as many as seven buildings on the perimeter of the University of Southern Maine campus. The “white houses,” as they’re commonly known, are a series of former residential buildings, located on Chamberlain Avenue, Deering Avenue and Granite Street, that were converted into University of Maine System office space.
Last month, the University of Maine at Machias evacuated and closed Kimball Hall because of structural concerns after a “facility assessment” found that portions of the exterior brick walls might fail due to years of deterioration.
That building could be sold, repaired or demolished depending on the extent of the damage and whether the university could adapt and shuffle staff to exist without the historic building. Kimball Hall houses faculty offices, The Galley dining area, student gathering spaces and the UMaine Machias Facilities Division.
The board also will consider whether to allow officials to try to sell a 30-acre piece of undeveloped land along Stillwater Avenue in Old Town, next to the elementary school, which includes a small portion of the DeMeritt Forest. The property could serve as commercial space, as an auto shop and Dairy Queen are just across the road.
The item that would allow the system to pursue the sales is set to appear on the consent agenda, meaning it isn’t expected to generate much controversy or debate among trustees.
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