Campus hotel negotiations continue, LaBelle lawsuit unrelated

By Tony Wittkowski | Staff Reporter | Central Michigan Life

Negotiations between Central Michigan University and Lodgco Hospitality LLC to construct a hotel on campus continue without controversy.

Michael Smith, president of Lodgco, said there have been no setbacks in the process.

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from Central Michigan University and the city of Mount Pleasant,” Smith said.

The CMU Board of Trustees granted University President George Ross authority to negotiate a land lease agreement with Lodgco at the Dec. 2 board meeting.

Lodgco proposed building a Holiday Inn hotel and stadium suites east of Kelly/Shorts Stadium to be completed in time for the 2012 football season.

Smith said he does not anticipate any problems during the design stages of the hotel.

“We’re just going ahead on the time lines and looking for different architects, and securing actual drawings within the next 60 to 90 days,” Smith said.

Preliminary plans for the hotel presented to the board include include indoor and outdoor pools, exercise facilities, a business center, restaurant, conference space and more. The stadium suites will be connected by a glass atrium to the hotel.

According to previously published reports, Smith estimated the project would cost $22 to $25 million total. Because it is a private development, university funds will not be used.

Ross cannot execute the lease until the board approves it if it is presented during the next meeting scheduled for February. A special meeting could be called to vote on the agreement specifically if the lease negotiations are ready before then.

LaBelle lawsuit update

General Counsel Manuel Rupe said the litigation between the LaBelle Limited Partnership and the board of trustees, filed by LaBelle in November 2008, is not related to the current hotel and stadium suites project.

LaBelle is accusing the board of an intentional breach of covenants when it gave former University President Michael Rao full authority at a 2008 meeting to sign a lease with Lodgco in order to construct the six-story hotel complex.

“The LaBelle litigation involves the CART (the Center for Applied Research and Technology) south of the CMU campus … and their claim as to exclusivity within the CART for hotels, conferences, and restaurants,” he said.

Steve Smith, director of public relations, said the case is still pending.

“The case is still scheduled for trial this spring,” he said.

According to previously published reports, LaBelle is suing for a halt on leasing the land to other parties and is seeking restitution for legal fees. However, they are not seeking additional money.

LaBelle’s public relations department declined comment when contacted by CM Life and LaBelle management could not be reached for comment.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 13, 2011)


Honors recital lets students show off semesters of hard musical work

By Tony Wittkowski | Staff Reporter | Central Michigan Life

A semester or more of hard work paid off Tuesday morning for students in the CMU honors recital.

The recitals are held four times a semester in the Staples Family Concert Hall.

Performers such as Paul Melcher, an Allendale graduate assistant, performed tenor vocals.

“It’s always really nice to see the support of the students,” Melcher said. “With everyone doing their own thing it was great to be a part of.”

Melcher, who is a double major, also does piano with voice.

“If people come, they get to see students from CMU do solo performances instead of the ordinary orchestra,” said Jackson senior Elizabeth Patronik.

The students picked to play are chosen by their studio professor, Patronik said. Those selected must be ready and have performed well throughout the semester.

“My favorite perfomance was probably the first one, the Apollo Saxophone Quartet,” she said.

New Hampshire graduate student Andrew Cote attends the honors recitals regularly.

“It’s fun watching just about all of them,” Cote said. “But my favorite performance was probably ‘The Great Train Race’ by Danielle Fowler.”

Cote said he knew all of the performers from a previous class as well.

He said he encourages more students to come out to the recitals.

The honors recital was watched by more then just friends and family, but also other performers as well.

“Whether you perform clarinet or violin, it’s always fun to perform up there,” Melcher said.

Tory senior David Cook played the song “Black Dog” with his clarinet. The song was originally played by rock band Led Zeppelin.

The last honors recital this semester will take place in Staples Family Concert Hall again on Thursday.

“Originally I had picked it for a recital in last October,” Cook said. “I chose it because I grew up listening to 70s rock music like Queen and Led Zeppelin.”

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 30, 2010)

CMU hopes to save $600,000 with reopening of gas turbine

By Tony Wittkowski | Staff Reporter | Central Michigan Life

CMU aims to save more than $600,000 over the next two years by reopening a gas turbine at the Central Energy Facility.

The gas turbine was installed in 1991, but was shut down in 2002 because it was not economically efficient, said Steve Lawrence, associate vice president of Facilities Management.

The price of natural gas had increased causing the university to stop using the turbine. However, it was reopened several weeks ago.

“We’re making our own electricity,” Lawrence said. “It’s a very efficient and very sustainable operation.”

The turbine itself reduces the steam into thermal needs such as hot water and heating and cooling, he said. It will generate 55 to 60 percent of the campus’ energy needs.

CMU switched to a boiler after halting the gas turbine in 2002. The energy from the gas turbine is used to heat water, buildings and a small portion is also used for humidification, said Leroy Barnes, director of energy and utilities.

“The turbine was restarted when we determined the price of natural gas was dropping,” Barnes said. “The price of electricity was also increasing.”

The heat recovery generator collects any of the excess heat emitting from the turbine and converts it into energy. The wood burner, which burns wood chips to generate steam, is even carbon neutral, Barnes said.

Facilities Management recently completed repairs on the heat recovery steam generator.

“We have a fairly low carbon footprint compared to other universities,” Barnes said.

David Burdette, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services, said CMU co-wrote a grant with Union Township in order to study wind turbines as a plausible alternative energy source. He said wind turbines and other sources of alternative energy, like the gas turbine at CMU, are the right things to implement for the future.

“I’m very positive about the future of alternative energy,” Burdette said.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 22, 2010)

College of Medicine building at 35 percent completion; end date still set for fall 2012

By Tony Wittkowski | Staff Reporter | Central Michigan Life

The College of Medicine building has had no hitch in the construction process and is still expected to be completed by its set date of occupation.

Dr. Ernest Yoder, the college’s dean, said things are “a bit ahead of schedule and on target” for occupation by fall 2012.

The completion rate for the school is now set at 35 percent, said Steve Lawrence, associate vice president of Facilities Management.

“The basement, underground utilities and foundations are complete,” Lawrence said. “Structural steel is nearly completed.”

Work on the second and third concrete floors are complete and metal stud work, Dens board sheeting and exterior metal stud wall framing are underway, he said.

Lawrence said in the next two weeks additional work on the first floor wall framing and upper level courtyard window framing will be completed.

The project is a $24-million, 60,000-square-foot addition to the Health Professions Building, and will be similar in appearance.

The exterior should be completed by December,” said Steve Smith, director of public relations.

Yoder said the college is important to CMU and its students. A large influx in students this semester came with an increase in pre-medicine students, he said.

“This year, CMU had its largest freshman class,” he said.

Yoder said the university is addressing the shortage of physicians in the state and creating new ways of training students.

Construction began on the new facility in February 2009. So far, the College of Medicine has had no problems in construction, Lawrence said.

(Author’s Note: The article was originally published on Nov. 5, 2010)

Westboro Baptist Church member debates with students, greeted by protesters

By Tony Wittkowski | Staff Reporter | Central Michigan Life

Shirley Phelps-Roper faced a crowd of journalism students gathered in the Engineering and Technology Building and told them of a terrible fate she feels they could face.

“We deserve death, we deserve hell,” Phelps-Roper said. “If you serve God, you will not be tricked.”

Phelps-Roper, along with two of her daughters, spoke to three journalism classes Monday about her experience with the First Amendment. The three come from the Westboro Baptist Church, a religious group out of Topeka, Kan. nationally known for protesting soldiers’ funerals following 9/11.

But the discussion stayed away from the topic when those in attendance began asking questions about anything from the family’s funeral protests to the Bible and the molestation of children by priests.

At one point, Phelps-Roper criticized President Barack Obama, calling him “the Antichrist” and “not a real Christian.”

“There was a fair amount of opposition to her coming,” said Timothy Boudreau, associate journalism professor. “But not as much as I expected.”

Boudreau contacted Phelps-Roper through an e-mail address listed on the WBC website, inviting her to speak in his three journalism classes.

“We usually try to bring a controversial person in once every semester,” Boudreau said. “Just to give students an experience in case they have to interview someone they don’t agree with.”

Eliana Lifson, 10, of Mount Pleasant rests her head on her mother Rachel Ann Foster's shoulder as the two stand amidst about 60 protesters who gathered at CMU against Shirley Phelps-Roper (Photo courtesy of Jake May).

Eliana Lifson, 10, of Mount Pleasant rests her head on her mother Rachel Ann Foster’s shoulder as the two stand amidst about 60 protesters who gathered at CMU against Shirley Phelps-Roper (Photo courtesy of Jake May).

For Phelps-Roper, it has been five years since she last spoke at a university.

“It’s wonderful here, these kids are great,” Phelps-Roper said. “They’ve been taught all their life to believe in one thing, so it’s hard to tell them you’re wrong.”

Not everyone was against the idea of Phelps-Roper speaking at CMU.

John Smith, a Mount Pleasant resident, CMU retiree and veteran, asked Phelps-Roper several questions which drew support from the audience.

“I applaud Tim for doing it,” Smith said. “It’s something that needed to be done.”

Smith, who served in Korea for three and a half months before being injured at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, argued over the real interpretation of the Bible.

“Everyone has something good about them,” Smith said. “But I couldn’t find it in them.”

The Protest

Around campus, protesters gathered to voice their displeasure over the WBC’s views.

A crowd of about 60 people met by the Charles V. Park Library, accompanied by an arrangement of signs.

Two of the protestors included 10-year-old Eliana Lifson and her mother, Rachel Ann Foster.

Foster let Eliana take the day off from school to participate in the protest. Together, they held a sign that read “God is a lesbian.”

“They can’t tell us what to do,” Eliana said. “Gays and lesbians are free to do what they want.”

The two students who helped organize the protest were Bay City junior Kyle Elsea and Crystal Lake sophomore Annie Somerville.

The protest remained peaceful when Phelps-Roper passed by.

“I understand she has a right to speak here,” said Elsea, an Iraq veteran. “So we figured we would do the same … We don’t appreciate her being here.”

During the protest, there were also donations collected for the Human Rights Campaign and the Wounded Warriors Project.

“The Dogma Free Society is taking donations and donating them in Westboro’s name to organizations they don’t like,” Somerville said.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 1, 2010)

More than 70 bike racks installed in last three years campus-wide

By Tony Wittkowski | Staff Reporter | Central Michigan Life

An additional 70 bike racks have sprung up in recent years across campus thanks to an influx of bicyclists.

Central Michigan University has added the dozens of racks across campus outside of each building for the last three years. The amount of bikes on campus has increased over the last four years, said Steve Lawrence, associate vice president of Facilities Management.

Permanent racks cost $1,000 to plot and install, Lawrence said. There are more than 260 permanent bike racks and 72 moveable bike racks on campus. There is funding for new bike racks every year.

Racks can be expensive because their cost includes a concrete slab for them to be set in, Lawrence said.

“It just keeps the ground around it looking better,” said Lawrence.

Mowing the grass is easier for maintenance because of the concrete slabs holding down the bike racks, he said.

“They would normally have to move all the bikes around before cutting the grass,” Lawrence said. “Weeds would grow in the spokes and there would always be a lot of mud.”

The amount of bikes on campus has affected bike lanes on the side of the road as well, Lawrence said.

In 2008, a bike lane was installed on Washington Street between Preston and Bellows streets. There was one and a half miles of bike lanes added to West Campus Drive south of Broomfield Road in 2009.

This year, an additional mile of bike lanes were added on Washington Street between Preston and Broomfield streets and a half mile on Franklin Street between Bellows and Preston streets.

“It appears that there has been an increase in bikes,” said CMU Police Chief Bill Yeagley. “They are all around on campus.”

While bikes have increased, the number of parking permits has decreased, Yeagley said.

The amount of vehicles registered in 2006 was 11,434. Since then, the amount of parking permits has decreased by more than 1,000 and now stand at 10,424 for fall 2010.

This might be in correlation to more bikes being used on campus because of the costs of the permits and gas, Yeagley said.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 27, 2010)

Quite a Splash: Heavy rains flood some parts of campus, community

By Tony Wittkowski | Staff Reporter | Central Michigan Life

Students rushed from class to class making fruitless attempts to not get wet Tuesday.

A storm cell, which brought a thunderstorm warning and tornado watch for most of the afternoon, struck Mount Pleasant. The National Weather Service in Grand Rapids issued a high wind warning, which expires at 8 p.m. today and warns of possible 60 mile-per-hour winds.

Some students in Emmons Hall found their clothes and carpets soaked in water. Bay City senior Brad Bender found rainwater had leaked in through the window onto the floor of his dorm.

“I realized it was raining out so I decided to check on the room,” said Bender, a resident assistant for the hall’s terrace. “It is a room that has a history with flooding.”

One of Emmons Hall’s custodians eventually came by to check on some of the rooms for water damage.

“Our wonderful custodian Bill checked in,” Bender said. “He gave us some rags and vacuumed.”

Kentwood sophomore Samantha Brown lives in another room that was affected by the downpour.

“I was a little worried because my roommate texted me about it,” Brown said. “It turned out the windows were left open.”

East quad maintenance worker Bill Schafer said it seemed to be the same occurrence with each room that had been found with water.

“Some of the students have only been closing the inside part of the windows at night,” Schafer said. “The rain is still getting inside by collecting in the opening of the outside portion of the window.”

Some streets in Mount Pleasant were flooded after the storm swept through the city.

Abbey Lane, Kinney and Bennett avenues, and Bellows, Brown, Elizabeth, Michigan and Fancher streets were partially flooded during the afternoon. No streets were closed because of the rain, said Michelle Smith, assistant Streets supervisor for Public Works.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 27, 2010)