Fees fund 66 percent of landscaping

The Harrison Plaza entrance is a heavily landscaped part of UNA’s campus. The budget for campus landscaping is $605, 591 each year, according to Director of Facilities Administration and Planning Michael Gautney’s budget records.

Student fees fund 66 percent of campus landscaping costs, said Michael Gautney, director of facilities administration and planning.

Approximately 70 percent of UNA’s nearly 200-acre campus is “highly groomed — that means grass cut, flowers planted, shrubs trimmed, flowers blooming,” Gautney said.

The total budget for landscaping these areas is $605,591, according to Gautney’s financial records.

Landscaping of UNA’s campus is maintained by the grounds department, a branch of facilities administration and planning.

“The decision was made a long time ago that this campus was going to be one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States,” Gautney said. “That demands that we have certain looks to it.”

These looks include lighted pedestrian-friendly walkways and a colorful variety of trees, shrubs and flowers.

Gautney said “nearly every year for the past 20-plus years,” UNA has received a beautification award from the Florence Beautification Board.

Gautney said he is not aware of UNA having won any national-level beautification awards.

The grounds department crew consists of 13 full-time paid employees who average an eight-hour workday on an average hourly salary of $10, Gautney said. $562,087 is the yearly cost of a hired staff, Gautney said.

Funding for the grounds department comes from the general fund, a combination of student and federal dollars. Student fees account for 66 percent of the funding, and the remaining 34 percent comes from federal money, Gautney said.

Gautney said the crew is taking measures to decrease spending by using plants that will come back year after year.

In addition to daily campus work, Gautney is also cooperatively responsible for oversight of special projects.

Gautney, UNA President Bill Cale and Vice President John Thornell meet monthly to discuss the major maintenance and capital needs list.

Gautney said one current project is to completely redesign and replace the sprinkler system at the president’s home.

“The (original) design didn’t take into consideration the appropriate design for what areas you water and when,” he said. “We were getting too much water on the grass to keep the flowers living. So, we’re redesigning the system, replacing equipment and redoing the grass.”

Gautney estimated the total cost of this project to be $6,000.

Emma Beth Lavender, a UNA senior, said the amount paid for landscaping is too high.

“Yes, campus is appealing, and it brings in more students, but I think there are more critical issues (the university) should be spending money on,” she said. “I think they should put video cameras in the parking deck instead. It doesn’t matter how appealing campus is — people aren’t going to want to come here if it’s not safe.”

Officials are currently accepting bids for a camera system for the campus.

Patrick Lindsay, a senior, said the fraction of his tuition that goes toward landscaping is probably money well spent.

“I feel like it’s in the university’s best interest to keep a well-maintained campus because it gives us a positive public image,” he said. “I wasn’t planning on going to UNA before I visited. Looks wasn’t the only thing that influenced my decision, but it definitely helped sell the place to me.”