Flandrau profits, work upset by construction
Dust, bright lights and construction on the doorstep of the building have cost Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium about $4,000 and hindered night telescope viewing, among other problems, officials said.
Flandrau director William Buckingham said yesterday the Integrated Learning Center construction project is responsible for a decrease in both attendance and revenue this semester.
While he acknowledged the University of Arizona's attempts to alleviate the problems, Buckingham said attendance is down dramatically this year.
"The university is working with us to help curb the effects of the construction," he said. "Despite this, our attendance is down."
Buckingham said 60 percent of Flandrau's operating budget is based on customer revenue.
He said that with the decrease in attendance, the center has lost approximately $4,000 when compared to figures at this time last year.
Decreased attendance and revenue will lead to changes in the future services, he added.
"As far as the long term effects, we may need to cut budgets and staff members," he said.
Buckingham said part of the problem stems from difficulties in finding the center with road obstructions.
The ILC construction, as well as the project underway at the Steward Observatory, has closed all northbound traffic on North Cherry Avenue.
Buckingham said this is the main reason for customer confusion. The decrease in attendance began when the street was closed, he said.
Despite the difficulties finding the center, Buckingham said the university has helped by putting up signs to direct traffic to the center.
"It is not like the administration has acted without working with us," he said. "They have put up signs that direct people to where we are."
Melissa Dryden, UA program coordinator for Facilities Design and Construction, said the university is concerned with the potential problems caused by construction. The signs are just one of the university's responses, she said.
"We have tried to assist by putting signs at (East) Second (Street) and Cherry to direct traffic to the center," she said.
But the trouble doesn't stop at low attendance.
Buckingham said the increased amount of dirt in the air has added a great strain on the astronomical services provided by the center.
"The dirt being kicked up by the construction workers are coating the telescope optics," he said. "With the accelerated rate of dirt in the air, it runs the risk of scratching the mirror on the telescope."
Buckingham said the ramifications of the air-borne dirt will cause more problems in the future.
"If it continues at this rate, it will add up very quickly," he said.
Dryden said the university expected the dust problem and that it has attempted to decrease the amount of dust caused by construction.
"Before we started the project we knew that the dust would be a problem," she said. "At night we have the workers water down the area to keep the dust down."
However, she said that it is very difficult to keep all the dust contained while dirt is unearthed and hauled out of the site.
"It would be unrealistic to expect that there would be no problems," she said.
Demo Gallanos, Flandrau's observatory manager said that the dirt has forced him to clean the telescope area more often than usual.
"I have to clean the observatory once a week now," he said.
Gallanos also said that in the past, the telescope itself was cleaned twice a year. So far this semester, he has cleaned it twice due to the nearby construction.
Buckingham said there are other effects related to construction that have hindered services at the center, located at 1601 E. University Blvd.
Light from the nighttime construction has decreased the abilities of the rooftop observatory.
"The bright lights do wash out much of the astronomical viewing services to the west side," he said.
Gallanos said that the light has also been enhanced by the dust in the air.
"The dust will hang over the area and scatter the light, which will cause difficulties when looking over the site," he said.
Dryden said the construction workers have made every attempt to reduce the amount of light that escapes the construction site. She added that risk management prevents more action.
"They try to focus them down into the hole, but because of safety issues, the workers need to see what is going on," she said. "I don't know what other measures can be taken to curb the problem."
Buckingham also said that the noise from the site has hindered group instruction.
"The noise of the heavy construction machinery makes it difficult to explain things to the groups," he said.
Dryden said in the past, officials from Flandrau have worked with the university in order to minimize conflict with construction.
"Flandrau has always been good about keeping us informed on pervious projects," she said. "We will certainly contact Flandrau about the situation."
Dryden said that the workers from Flandrau have been very patient with the construction.