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From Ratliff Hall Renovations to HVAC Upgrades, MC’s Summer Construction Projects Are in Full Swing

Crews have been working diligently this summer to bring Ratliff Hall up to speed for the fall semester.
Crews have been working diligently this summer to bring Ratliff Hall up to speed for the fall semester.

For the last few summers, the sight of heavy machinery has become commonplace on the Mississippi College campus as Campus Operations staff ensure the University’s facilities are in top shape when the full complement of students arrives for the fall semester.

This year is no exception: Major renovations to Ratliff Hall – the final residence hall upgrade scheduled for the main campus – headline construction projects currently under way at MC.

According to Roe Grubbs, executive director of operations in the Department of Facility and Plant Management, the goal is for returning faculty, staff, students, and alumni to see Mississippi College at its best when they return from summer break.

“We want to keep the grounds clean and the campus manicured, so when they come back to campus, they’ll say it looks nice,” Grubbs said. “I told MC President Blake Thompson that right now, it’s got a Hawaiian shirt on, and we’re trying to upgrade it to a coat and tie.

“We’re trying to maintain a consistent look throughout the campus.”

Last year, to help facilitate a large increase in new student enrollment due to the advent of the Leland Speed Scholarship – which requires recipients to live on campus – Mississippi College made much-needed interior refurbishments to Hederman Hall and Gunter Hall.

This summer, crews have been working diligently to bring Ratliff Hall up to speed for the same purpose.

When Laura Jackson, chief financial officer and chief operating officer, arrived at Mississippi College four years ago, the MC alum couldn’t help noticing the residence hall had fallen out of use.

“It bothered me that a large dorm in the center of campus was vacant,” Jackson said. “It became apparent pretty quickly that tearing it down was not a viable option because of its location and its proximity to Chrestman Hall, so our plan turned to planning for a renovation.

“It will be exciting to see student life in that building again.”

Grubbs said the building’s red brick exterior required very little work. The interior was a different story.

“There was nothing wrong with the building itself – the inside just needed an update,” he said. “We’re not changing out surfaces – mostly, we’re just putting on a fresh coat of paint, rewiring the rooms, and installing brand new ceilings.”

The biggest changes to the residence hall, which houses male students on one side and female students on the other, are in the bathrooms. In lieu of open showers, individual stalls have been inserted.

“We are totally redoing the bathrooms,” Grubbs said. “They are going to be more contemporary than ever before. They are going to be first class.”

Jackson said the bathroom renovations may have the biggest impact on residents of Ratliff Hall.

“They have been completely renovated and improved,” she said.

In addition to the bathroom transformation, Grubbs said living areas in Ratliff will have additional wall outlets and enhanced safety features.

“Years ago, electronics weren’t what they are now, and students needed only a plug or two,” he said. “We’re adding extra plugs that can be used for electronics, which should be much more convenient for students.

“We’ve also added bigger and stronger fire escapes. Instead of coming out of a window, now you come out a door. We’ve put safety features like that in place all over the building.”

A freshly painted lobby area with new ceilings, enhanced lighting, clean floors, and modern furniture matching the style of other residence halls on campus will bring consistency to Ratliff Hall’s interior design.

“When you enter the building, you’ll see right away that the older dorm has been brought back to life,” Grubbs said. “These are simple improvements, but they are going to make Ratliff look really nice.”

In addition to the residence hall upgrade, MC is embarking on a 30-month process to replace heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning units throughout campus.

“The grant we received from the State of Mississippi through the American Recovery Plan Act will quite literally breathe some new air into many buildings on campus,” Jackson said. “HVAC improvements are expensive, and these funds will allow us to upgrade some very old equipment.”

Grubbs said MC will receive more than two and a half million dollars to make the improvements, which will result in long-term savings for the University.

“With this new equipment and controls, our energy use will decrease substantially, which will save money in the long run,” he said. “Years down the road, it will pay for itself.”

He said the new equipment may also decrease response time for repairs. No longer will it take from six weeks to 12 months to obtain a needed part that is no longer being manufactured.

“Older equipment breaks down more often, and the cost to replace it can be substantial,” he said. “These buildings on our campus breathe, and if you cut the air off, you negatively impact the environment for everyone. The students live in these buildings and we want them to be comfortable.

“The new controls will allow us to see what’s happening with a unit without leaving our desk. Many times, we’ll be able to correct the issue right away or call a technician on site to address the problem.”

He said Mississippi College is currently accepting bids for the project.

Along with the Ratliff renovation and the HVAC grant, Campus Operations is staying busy with a number of smaller projects at Mississippi College.

“We’re making what I would call ‘coat and tie’ changes – moving something over here, painting something over there,” Grubbs said. “We’re working towards maintaining the campus, making it a place faculty, staff, students, and visitors are proud to be.”