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SFU needs $160-million to fix maintenance crisis

BURNABY (NEWS1130) – Simon Fraser University is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and as students head back to their classes they may be doing so in buildings filled with mould, leaks and crumbling concrete.

In a report issued by SFU Grad Student Society (GSS), over 50 per cent of their buildings are listed in poor condition and in need of $160 million dollars in urgent maintenance.

Julia Lane with the GSS points to the province over the lack of funding, and blames continued budget cuts for public infrastructure as the primary cause.

“It’s not just an issue for SFU but for publicly funded infrastructure. As a citizen in BC, I would like to see that when we put up buildings we have a plan for long-term maintenance so that they just don’t fall down.”

Hospitals and schools also pull from public infrastructure funds says Lane, and that the university doesn’t want to divert funds from elementary schools to fix a problem the province has essentially created.

That leaves the university to pull from its operating budget to deal with maintenance issues, and Lane claims the institution is left to decide whether to teach, or fix leaky roofs.

“The operating allowance has also been reduced. That money is first and foremost supposed to be for the teaching and research. So when it’s being diverted to just keeping the buildings standing, the university’s hands are tied.”

Students and faculty are also dealing with physical medical issues over the poor conditions, as Lane says she always got headaches when she would teach and study in SFU’s Education Building.

She says one faculty member had to go on sick leave over mould issues.

“There was a faculty member who was on sick leave. She was told it was related to mould in her office. Her office was essentially under quarantine and they had to get a robot arm in to take out her books and personal items because she could no longer go into her office.”

Lane says the maintenance budget was about about 5 million dollars in 2009, but in 2013 it’s at just over $500,000.

In SFU’s 5-Year Capital Plan, the university estimates it needs $20 million per year to maintain its buildings.