White Louisiana College tries to grow, repairs needed on campus exceed $35 million
By Billy Gunn
The Alexandria Town Talk
Louisiana College is pursuing $10 million to produce a movie based on the 1960s sitcom “Green Acres,” adding to the tens, or hundreds, of millions of dollars the 104-year-old Baptist college is seeking in aggressive expansion beyond the Pineville campus.
All the while, buildings on campus sit needing millions of dollars in repairs, according to a study done for LC by Aramark Higher Education in a report commissioned in 2010.
For expansion, estimates range from $60 million to more than $200 million for LC’s law school, medical school, to produce “Green Acres: The Movie,” and other endeavors.
LC’s vice president for institutional advancement, Tim Johnson, in the current issue of the Baptist Message said that while potential donors, or investors, are giving “verbal support” for the movie, actually getting money has been less than successful. But Johnson said the movie could start shooting locally as early as this summer.
In the Baptist Message story, Johnson also announced LC is “actively pursuing” a film school, which would take even more money.
Johnson did not say where the film school might be located, but in January an accountant for local businessman Ken Moran said a preliminary buy-sell agreement had been signed on Cowboy Town, a closed rodeo-themed arena on almost 28 acres north of Alexandria off Interstate 49.
A Jan. 15 story in The Town Talk said speculation was that a Central Louisiana higher education institution was pursuing Cowboy Town.
Officials at Louisiana State University at Alexandria and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches said they were not interested in purchasing the property.
LC didn’t answer questions for the January Town Talk story.
Moran bought the Cowboy Town building and property out of bankruptcy in 2003, and at least twice in the last five years has tried to sell it for $4 million to $5 million. Both deals fell through.
Questions to LC President Joe Aguillard on the amount of money LC needs for all its plans, as well as the 2010 Aramark study that estimated LC needs almost $36 million to repair its infrastructure, were answered in two sentences in an e-mail from spokeswoman Amy Robertson.
“Louisiana College continues to pursue its mission: To provide a liberal arts education characterized by devotion to the preeminence of the Lord Jesus, allegiance to the authority of the Holy Scriptures, dedication to academic excellence for the glory of God, and commitment to change the world for Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Aguillard said. “We look forward to sharing news about Louisiana College at the appropriate time.”
LC maintenance needs
The Aramark study, completed in 2010 and obtained by The Town Talk, found that many of LC’s buildings need a total of $28,102,049 in deferred and planned maintenance, $4,708,151 to modernize buildings, and another $3,016,319 in upgrades for infrastructure that does not meet current codes.
By itself, Cottingham Hall, the primary women’s dormitory, needs more than $4.3 million in work. One photo in the report shows Cottingham with a hole in the roof, and a barrel underneath the hole to catch rainwater.
“The (Cottingham) roof is considerably past its useful life causing many areas of localized leaking, accelerated deterioration with openings in the cornice system large enough to raise concerns about the roof’s structural stability,” the report states.
“One concern of the college is that of potential damaging winds entering the attic space thus pressurizing the attic exerting uplift stress on the framing system,” it states.
Tudor Hall, the primary men’s dorm, would require almost $3.1 million to repair, the report states.
Other buildings that require more than $1 million in work where maintenance has been put off are: Martin Performing Arts ($1.4 million), Guinn Auditorium ($2.3 million), Cavanaugh ($2.6 million), Norton Library ($2.1 million), Church Hall ($2.46 million), English Village ($2.3 million) and Strother Cafeteria ($1.37 million), according to the report.
It’s unclear if LC plans to borrow the money to make repairs. Inquiries to the Louisiana Bond Commission were unsuccessful in finding out if LC has applied for more debt to fix the problems.
No LC official has issued statements that collections from fundraising would be spent on bringing campus buildings up to date.
One of the reasons LC cited as a factor in choosing Shreveport as the site for its law school, which plans to enroll its first students in August 2012, was the newfound wealth from the Haynesville shale play in that part of the state.
Overnight, it seemed, landowners who once were cash-poor were bestowed with riches from land-lease deals and royalty payments from the Haynesville natural gas fields in northwest Louisiana.
Aguillard said last year that LC’s strategy would be to mine donations from the newly rich there who believe in LC’s mission of strict, literal adherence to the Gospels.
This past week, economic and real estate officials in Shreveport said LC had raised millions of dollars needed to purchase, remediate and renovate a neglected former federal courthouse in downtown Shreveport.
One official said private and corporate donations from Louisiana and Texas made it possible for work to begin soon.
Drake Owen, director of institutional advancement at Northwestern State University, said NSU’s coffers are greener now because of alumni who have bequeathed land — and the abundance of natural gas underneath it — to the university.
Others have donated some of their natural gas money to NSU for tax reasons, Owen said, and also because they know state funds for higher public education are scarce.
“That alumni has to have an affinity for the school,” Owen said.
LC could pull in millions of dollars from non-alumni who believe in the school’s Bible-centered mission, and who are worth millions of dollars.
“It would only take a few,” Owen said.