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Investing in student space

by Matthew Guité October 30, 2012
Investing in student space

CSU VP clubs and internal affairs Nadine Atallah (left) and VP finance Keny Toto. Photo by Madelayne Hajek

The Concordia Student Union unanimously agreed on a motion to sign a $97,000 contract with MHPM Project Managers Inc. for their services in planning and preparing for a new student centre during a regular council meeting Wednesday.

The contract would also allow MHPM to aid the CSU in negotiating with the university should there be another round of student centre contract negotiations in the future.

Nadine Atallah, VP clubs and internal affairs, said that hiring MHPM was an important step in the long-term plan for the student centre.

“The whole idea behind this is to keep the option open for students to decide if they want to move forward with the university, independently or with another party,” said Atallah. “Should students decide they do want to move forward with the university, then at least we’ll have started the process of putting together an agreement that is a little more representative of the students’ interest.”

Two representatives from MHPM were present at the CSU meeting to explain their proposal and to answer any questions. Council had very few questions upon the conclusion of the presentation, but Atallah told The Concordian that council members received the proposal weeks in advance and many had already had their questions answered by her. Council voted unanimously to accept the motion, but after the representatives left, councillor Ramy Khoriaty raised concerns about what had specifically been voted on.

“Is this a proposal or a contract?” Khoriaty asked. After being informed that council had agreed to a contract, not simply a proposal, Khoriaty asked if the contract had been reviewed by a lawyer. Council then reconsidered and amended the motion to have a lawyer review the contract before its approval.

The student centre, which has been an issue for students and the CSU for nearly a decade, would provide free space for students and clubs near the downtown campus. An account set up for student space has amassed more than nine million dollars to date, according to VP finance, Keny Toto, mostly from fee levies and interest accrued over the years.

Alex Callard, a second-year communications student, said he was cautiously optimistic when he heard of the agreement.

“It really depends on what specifically the consultants are helping out with,” he said, “Because if they’re professionals and can actually do a better job, then I think it’s a reasonable investment.”

Justin Banks, a second-year marketing student, said that he had been hearing about the student centre for as long as he’s been at Concordia, but is still wary about paying a project management firm so much for their services.

“If they’re going to be drawing up the blueprints and planning everything that needs to be done before construction takes place, then I suppose it’s a necessary evil,” he said. “The CSU doesn’t know anything about what the building needs other than what they want for students, so it could be worth it.”

According to Atallah, once the contract has been signed, a financial feasibility study will be conducted followed by the creation of a project implementation plan.

“The first step is consulting with students on what they need from the space, on what space we have and what we might need in 10 years,” Atallah said. “Once you get the results from the space study, then we put together a financial feasibility study, which is basically looking real-time at what’s available to us and what are our options.”

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