With a grand total of 1,020 man hours and $22,854 spent on materials and appliances, the kitchen remodel project for Emporia State’s presidential residence, which has been in the works since April 2009, was completed two days before last Thanksgiving.
The administration said the remodel provides Sodexo catering staff space to prepare and serve food for events hosted at the residence at 1522 Highland St.
“If you’re going to serve a meal for 25 or 30 people, you’re going to need a lot of space,” said Dennis Mohling, director of facilities administration and construction.
Michael Lane, president of ESU, said the old kitchen was not practical for the catering staff since they were unable to even stand in the kitchen all at the same time. Most of the food preparation was done in the Memorial Union and then transported to the presidential residence, which diminished the quality of food being served, he said.
“Now the Sodexo staff can do the entire meal or the entire reception, whatever we’re doing – they can prepare it all there, so things come out of the kitchen piping hot as opposed to having (to) come out of a warmer,” Lane said.
Lane said that Sodexo, the company that handles of all ESU’s dining services, originally offered to make a $10,000 contribution for the remodel.
Lane said that since Sodexo’s contract with the university had changed, they opted to withdraw the offer. Lane then decided to contribute the money in lieu of Sodexo’s contribution, but the company eventually decided they wanted to “participate in the remodeling of the kitchen,” he said.
Sodexo gave the money as a “gift” to the ESU Foundation. The donation was ultimately used for the remodel project in what Lane calls a “pass through.”
A response dated Nov. 29, 2010, from Judy Anderson, then records custodian for ESU, to an Open Records request by The Bulletin, included Sodexo as a $10,000 funding source for the project, but a correction to this response the next day listed Lane as the funding source. Lane, however, said his contribution proved unnecessary.
Lane cited the accumulation of funds for house maintenance over the last three and a half years as another funding source for the project. About $5,600 is designated each fiscal year for household upkeep like broken windows and roof repairs, and much of that is carried over into the next year’s fund.
Mohling has been employed at ESU for about 30 years and, during this time, has worked on several projects at the presidential residence. He said in comparison to other campuses in Kansas, this remodel had been “necessary for a long time.”
Mohling said that every six months he and his colleagues take a tour of one of the campuses in the state.
“Last fall we had our meeting at Wichita State, and we happened to have it at the president’s house and their new eating and kitchen facility… is just miraculous compared to ours,” Mohling said. “Even our new one is nothing compared to what they have.”
From January 2008 to June 2009, 19 state funded events costing $5,228 total were held at the president’s home with 198 total guests. This information came in a response on Jan. 26 from Tracy Greene, general counsel and records custodian for ESU, to an Open Record request by The Bulletin. Events for 2010 were not provided in these documents.
Other events are funded by different means, which include the president’s guest account, the president’s own personal finances or through the ESU Foundation. Lane said that the guest account is part of a contract with Sodexo, which is available for the university to use as needed, but if it is not used, it “goes away.”
“It’s not real money,” he said.
Lane said that state funds are not intended to be used for events held for associates of ESU. For instance, the university tries not use state funds for commencements or fundraising events.
According to Greene’s Open Records response, from January 2008 to November 2010, 28 non-state funded events costing $9,761 total, for 674 guests, were held at the president’s home.
Some of the new appliances purchased for the kitchen include a Samsung 29 cubic foot French door style refrigerator purchased from a Lowe’s in Kansas City, Mo., for $2,024; a thermador and hood blower costing $1,308; a Viking gas range top stove costing $3,859; and a Frigidaire microwave costing $259, all purchased from Metro Appliances in Wichita.
Lane said the Sodexo catering staff worked directly with those involved in the project to determine what types of appliances were to be purchased.
About the new stove, Lane said, “It’s a commercial range top. It’s not something you’d find in your parents’ home or my home for that matter – it’s strong and heavy and it’s really made to produce a higher volume of food. It’s certainly not something I would have put in my personal residence.”
Mohling said he tries to be economically conscious in all campus projects, and the kitchen remodel was no exception. Instead of tearing out the whole floor in the kitchen to install a new one, Mohling was able to track down the same tile (although it had been discontinued) as the ceramic floor tile that was installed in 1998. The workers only had to patch the areas that needed tiles.
The workers were also able to reuse some cabinets by re-installing them in different locations.
Mohling said the remodel was not unique in overall cost from any other sort of kitchen remodel that might be done in a private home. The university did not have to reimburse workers for man hours because the project was considered to be part of standard campus maintenance.
“If more money had been available, I think it would have been nice to make it even somewhat bigger,” Mohling said.
About rumors that the project was completed but had to be redone to some extent, Mohling said a wall that would have been about the width of a standard doorway was in the process of being installed (metals studs were in place), but the decision was made to omit this addition.
Lane said it is the university’s obligation to be able to entertain donors, celebrate student and faculty accomplishments and build alumni relations, and this was not possible with the old kitchen. He said those opposed to the remodel had probably never seen the old kitchen.
“It’s awfully hard to make that judgment if you’ve never been there, but this is a state asset just like all the classroom buildings that we also spend money on and we have to be responsible for ensuring that it is functional for its purposes,” Lane said. “This is going to provide us an opportunity to provide good food service to prospective donors.”
Lane lives at the presidential residence free of charge under his contract with the university.