ETSU's parking garage near completion. (Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)
Contractors and college officials are still hoping to have the $26 million parking garage at the edge of East Tennessee State University’s campus finished before students return for the spring semester, but colder weather may complicate matters.
Don Freeman, president and CEO of Rentenbach, said workers are still aiming for a Jan. 15 or 16 completion date, but said they must still pour concrete, lay down asphalt and install fire control apparatus.
“Right now, weather is certainly a factor, and it has been for several days,” Freeman said. “We can’t pour concrete in the cold, so we’re doing everything we can in the cold weather to be sure that as soon as it gets warm enough to pour, we’ll be ready to pour.”
Since construction began in July 2012, the builders have been plagued with multiple setbacks, including an unexpected amount of dirt at the site that had to be removed and replaced, an unusually rainy summer and materials shortages.
In November, Rentenbach Vice President Tony Pettit said issues related to the structure’s complicated design may have contributed to the delays, but architects contended that it should have been a routine job.
The garage’s completion was first slated for August, in time for students to begin using it and the Parking and Public Safety offices to move into the designated spaces, but it was delayed, first to October, then to November and finally to mid-January.
If the garage is opened later this month, ETSU Vice President for Finance and Administration David Collins said students may be allowed to park in it, but the public safety office may have to wait until spring break to relocate, because the vital communications system should not be offline while students are on campus.
“Everyone is doing their best to get the garage completed as soon as possible,” Collins said in an emailed statement. “The weather in recent days certainly has not created ideal circumstances. Because we traditionally have fewer students on campus for the spring semester, we do not anticipate there being any major issues related to the availability of parking.”
To pay for the 1,200-space parking garage’s construction, ETSU increased student fees in 2011 from $25 per semester to $50.
Originally budgeted to cost $23 million, school officials said the fee increase should still cover the costs when the price tag was increased by $3 million when construction began.