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WIU to shutter building due to cost of needed repairs

Troy Rhoads.jpg
Rich Egger
Troy Rhoads outside Tillman Hall. “We need to focus on the fact that this isn’t a deterioration, per se, of the campus. This is the campus making a wise decision to try and maintain our effective, efficient operations and ensure the integrity of the institution moving forward.”

Western Illinois University will take Tillman Hall offline after next school year, but it’s not yet known what will happen to the building after that.

“At this point, there are no plans for doing anything as far as renovation or razing the building,” said Troy Rhoads, WIU Assistant Vice President for Facilities Management.

“The big key is that we have significant deferred maintenance and in particular in this building there’s a large concentration.”

Rhoads said a committee assessed campus needs and the condition of buildings, which led to the decision. He said a complete remodeling of Tillman Hall could cost in excess of $30 million. He said the building has more than $12 million in deferred maintenance.

“The roof is in significant need of replacement. The building envelope in general needs a lot of attention – the masonry, the sealants, the windows, the doors. All of those are aging out. They need some significant work,” he said.

Rhoads said the building also requires internal repairs and upgrades, including with the HVAC, technology, and electrical systems.

All departments in the building will be moved to new locations after next school year and Western will cease daily maintenance and operations there.

Rhoads said the next step after that will depend on how the building fits into the university’s campus master plan.

“If you change the purpose on the building, a remodel would focus on that. Make sure that it services that new focus of the building before we do any major retrofits or upgrades. We want those to all fit together and go cohesively so we’re not spending resources on something that we may not need,” he said.

The recently announced plan to convert the former physical science library in Currens Hall into an emergency operations center for the region is an example of WIU finding a new focus for a shuttered facility.

Rhoads said it’s also possible Tillman will be torn down but that’s not the intent at this time. He did say it makes sense to take care of fewer buildings in a better manner than to take care of more buildings in a less thorough fashion.

Rhoads said the state has estimated WIU has nearly $500 million in deferred maintenance projects.

“We have a significant level of deferred maintenance on this campus, as do all higher education institutions within the state of Illinois,” Rhoads said.

“If we are wise and use what we can for other resources, (if) we can condense the location of some operations, we can put a big dent in that $500 million by removing some of the buildings and using the existing buildings more effectively and efficiently.”

Rhoads said $20 million of Western’s deferred maintenance is currently being addressed, including new roofs for Currens and Knoblauch halls, an electrical infrastructure project throughout campus, and a chilled water loop project for the south side of campus, which he said will improve energy efficiency.

Tillman Hall history

The building is named after Arthur Tillman, who chaired the Department of Geography and Geology at WIU from 1928 to 1956. The school was known as Western Illinois State Teachers College when he arrived.

According to a plaque in Tillman Hall, he was instrumental in planning and designing the building, which was WIU’s first science building.

The plaque also states Tillman was a veteran of World War I and chaired the World War II “War Council.” That group recommended ways in which WIU could contribute to the war effort. Tillman taught meteorology to Navy and Marine pilots in training from 1941 to 1944.

“He was a significant part of our history and of our academic faculty. We want to make sure we maintain that in some form or fashion. I don’t know how that’s going to happen with the move, but there will definitely be something in there to try to maintain that tie and not lose that piece of Western’s history,” said Rhoads.

The university said in a news release that the Illinois legislature approved building Tillman Hall in 1954 at a cost of $2.6 million. William Stratton was governor at the time and Frank Beu was WIU’s president. The building was dedicated on September 17, 1955.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.