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Friday February 23, 2001

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Likins OKs Mall fence

By Kevin Clerici

Arizona Daily Wildcat

ASUA still dissatisfied with fence to be erected this summer

UA President Peter Likins is moving forward with plans to fence-off a portion of the UA Mall despite a last-minute initiative from ASUA asking for the area to remain open.

At Wednesday's Associated Students Senate meeting, all sides - UA students, student government, Likins and builders - met for nearly three hours to discuss the fencing, which will be erected in July and remain for one year.

In a letter delivered yesterday to the Senate, Likins said he was persuaded to further accommodate students, and after meeting with the construction team, the boundaries were changed so that:

the fence will be no closer than 200 feet from the west edge of the road that surrounds the cactus garden, located south of the Administration building. The construction proposal originally pushed for 160 feet.

the southern boundary of the fence will be moved to the north, so that at least 12 feet of space exists for pedestrian traffic. The existing road will be used for bikes.

a temporary stage created at about the same dimensions of the current stage will be located in consultation with ASUA.

any routine stage maintenance over the year time period will be provided by Swinerton and Walberg Builders, at no charge.

The fenced-off area will be used as a staging area to hold steel rods and construction cranes during demolition and construction of the new Student Union.

"Students will realize 'Oh my God, this makes sense' after they fully understand all the details," said Gilbert Davidson, assistant project manager for UA student union construction.

Davidson said the construction team learned last year that a utility tunnel, known as the K-tunnel, located directly behind the union was not structurally stable enough to handle the weight of the heavy equipment that would travel over it. The tunnel was projected as a major avenue for transportation of construction materials.

"The tunnel itself is safe and will not impact campus operations in future, but for construction purposes is was not a viable option." Davidson said. "It was somewhat of shock to the university (when we learned of its deficiency) and forced some major changes."

Without that access point, Swinerton would be forced to congest one throughway located between the Engineering building and the new bookstore, which would lead to further delays.

Thus, the new staging area was proposed.

"By being able to attack the union from both sides, the project would be completed sooner and smoother," Davidson said.

Safety should also improve, said Bob Smith, director of Facilities Design and Construction. The new staging area will separate students further from construction and debris as well as allow the construction workers within the fence to have more room to operate.

Bob Bertolini, Swinerton and Walberg Builders general superintendent, said the additional working area will complete the project three months sooner than without it. The Mall fence will come down next July, although the new student union won't be completed until December 2002.

Because of the inconvenience, Bertolini has agreed to renovate the fenced area with new sidewalks and grass.

ASUA President Ben Graff, author of the Mall preservation resolution, said yesterday his view hasn't changed.

"I don't feel that it is in the students best interest to take over the Mall," he said. "I felt (Likins and the construction team) were straight forward. I do think their reasons were legitimate and made sense from a construction point-of-view.

"But they didn't make sense from the day-to-day problems students will face with the fences."

Graff said he appreciated Likins and the builders' willingness to listen to ASUA's stance and to stay for the entire Senate meeting before making a final decision. The fence dimensions were to be defined Tuesday, but Likins postponed the decision until hearing from ASUA and students, Graff said.

ASUA Sen. Tricia Williams, one of five senators who voted for the initiative, felt a larger compromise should have been made by Likins and the builders.

"It was kind of like a slap in the face," she said. "Because it just shows that the administration at this school makes all the final decisions."

Likins left town yesterday morning and was not available for comment.

At the ASUA meeting, several students said they felt taking away the existing Mall area would lessen their "UA experience."

Likins countered that students do not realize that in July, the fenced-off area above the Integrated Learning Center will be taken down - re-opening a large portion of the Mall that freshmen and sophomores have never seen.

Both sides said they have received a few complaints about construction, but praised the UA community's understanding.

"I have been very happy, in general, with the ongoing construction," Graff said. "They are doing a great job, but ASUA took a stance in favor of how we felt the majority of students would react."