Newly completed administration building sets tone for blossoming Blanding campus

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Posted Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 7:32pm

BLANDING — The just completed Utah State University – College of Eastern Utah Administration Building is the culmination of creative solutions and innovation that truly distinguishes this can-do USU Eastern campus of 400 students.

“Our new administration building adds to our vision of a campus with modern facilities that compare favorably with facilities located at the best universities in the nation,” said Guy Denton, director of USU Eastern Blanding. “This administration building helps set a tone for our campus, supporting concepts of quality instruction and learning.”

The completion of the new 5,070-square-foot building, especially during such a challenging economic period, is a tribute to the leadership and vision of many individuals that stretches back to 1982, said USU Eastern Chancellor Joe Peterson.

“We’re excited to see this wonderful addition to the Blanding Campus,” Peterson said. “It helps us develop a top-notch educational setting that continues to attract students and educational professionals to Southeast Utah.  This new building is yet another venue for the college to invite the community onto campus.”  

In recognition of the new building, Peterson announced plans today to construct the “Gibbons Pavilion” in honor of the DeMar and Alberta Gibbons family, the original property owners on which the new administrative building stands.

“It will be a gathering place that will serve students, particularly Native American students, and recognize the 1982 sale and gift of the Gibbons property,” Peterson said.

The College will sponsor a contest to design the Pavilion open to all Native American students.

The new administration building is a well-appointed structure with professional spaces and amenities. It includes 12 individual office spaces, two conference rooms, workspace and reception areas. The larger of the two conference rooms will accommodate medium-to-large meetings, and will be made available to community groups to schedule for use.

It took the college more than three decades to get to this significant point and the creative thinking of many individuals across state and regional entities.

On June 8, 1982, the Gibbons family transferred the property to the San Juan Foundation as a sale for $80,000, but also “by gift.” Subsequently, the property was transferred to USU Eastern (then College of Eastern Utah) under the management of Utah’s Department of Facilities and Construction Maintenance (DFCM).

For the past three decades, the Gibbons home has served as the college’s administration building, despite the fact it was never designed to be a college building. Nevertheless, it has served an important function during these formative years of the college, Denton said.

“While the Gibbons home is a monument to the original sale and gift of property, it is an aging building,” Denton said. “The residence has presented significant maintenance challenges, requiring the college and DFCM to make significant investments throughout the years.”

In Master Plans approved by Blanding Campus administration and by DFCM, the College has sought to create a more effective solution for administration. The 2004 Master Plan stated that “current administration use of the residential building will be relocated and the residential style building demolished.”

The most recent Master Plan, approved in 2008, shows a parking lot where the Gibbons Home now stands. It was during that same year that the college submitted a large request for funding to upgrade the Gibbons Home for energy and ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, purposes. DFCM officials, however, were reluctant to continue investing in the aging structure.

Peterson said DFCM then provided a creative solution to their dilemma by recommending that USU Eastern consider deferring improvements at its Price and Blanding campuses from 2009-2010. The $700,000 saved could then be used to build a new building.

College officials reluctantly agreed knowing that the two-year deferment would mean a painful delay of much-needed projects for utilities, lighting and parking. On the other hand, they recognized that this austere approach would make possible for USU Eastern to build the new administration building without going through a lengthy facilities approval process, Peterson said.

The DFCM’s plan was approved in March 2010 by Acting President Mike King, Facilities Director Sheila Burghardt, and Campus Administrator Guy Denton. Despite this progress, another setback occurred in the fall of 2011 when contractor bids were received. The lowest bid was $200,000 more than available funds. It necessitated yet another creative solution, Peterson said.

While being fully aware of legislative language separating Price campus funding from Blanding campus funding, Peterson said he sought and received approval to use dollars from the sale of the former College President’s Residence in Price. The sale of that home provided the final $200,000 needed to supplement DFCM’s funding. Construction was finally able to proceed.

Portions of the Gibbons Pavilion will be constructed with salvaged stone from the Gibbons Home. The concept calls for an outdoor barbeque and seating.

“The Gibbons Pavilion, as proposed, will create a campus venue that is designed by Native American students for use by all students, in harmony with the vision of the Gibbons family,” Peterson said. “We’re grateful for the can-do attitude and creative solutions that have culminated in this beautiful new administrative building.”

Peterson thanked the Gibbons family, the San Juan Foundation, the County Commission and local leaders, as well as campus leaders in both Blanding and Price.

“The collaborative efforts of these entities have made the Blanding Campus what it is today,” he said.

 

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