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Water filters find politics murky

An effort to upgrade some water fountains on campus comes to a quick end.

By Solomon Smith, Managing Editor

Proponents for upgrading water fountains on campus saw their funds dry up Wednesday when their application for $68,000 for the project were denied by the IEC.

Valley College librarians had applied to the Promising Practice initiative, which offered one-time funding for plans or ideas from faculty that would improve student life on campus. Librarians Xiaoyang Lui-Behlendorf and Mike FitzGerald applied for the money for the initial installation and upgrades of the fountains.

The goal was not just filtering water, however. By adding bottle-filling stations, the hope was that students use fewer disposable bottles, reducing waste and provide a place for those who do not have clean water at home to get potable water. The application for the funds was voted down by the IEC on Tuesday morning. In a phone call with Dean of Institutional Effectiveness Michelle Fowles, there were several reasons for the down vote.

“Some felt there were inconsistencies with the plan,” said Fowles “and the campus facilities manager felt it needed to be done differently.”

In a recent vote the ASU had approved $3,000 for maintenance of the fountains, but the project is now dead.

“[The project] kind of started amongst the librarians that it would be a good thing to have [in the library],” said FitzGerald. “But as we started asking ‘how do we get this done on campus’ it turns out that lots of people on campus like those things.”

FitzGerald acknowledged there was confusion on whether this would be a construction issue and how it related to student equity. Liu-Behlendorf had contacted Haws, the company that makes the school’s water fountains, for a cost comparison and found it would not require any extensive permits.

“The buzz words here are retrofitting versus modifying,” said FitzGerald. “What we want to do is retrofit, which is simply adding a piece to an existing machine.”

Not everyone was on board for the possible repeat cost coming out of the ASU budget either; the overriding concern was that it would soon become an annual cost. FitzGerald’s answer was that they did not expect to need all of the money.

“The $3,000 was a guess. The filters cost from $20 to $60 with 10 machines. Three thousand was kind of an over estimate to cover replacement and repair,” said FitzGerald.


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