Campus / Greek Life / News / November 9, 2011

Beta seeks to rebuild aging, historic house

The Beta Theta Pi fraternity has begun its $1.2 million fundraising project to replace its 91-year-old house in a similar size and style.

Beta Theta Pi (Beta) began the fundraising during Homecoming weekend and has around $330,000 in the fund so far. Most of that money, though, has come through built up funds from the organization and not through fundraising efforts.

They hope to get the fundraising organized through the next two terms and start full speed next school year.

Over the years, the house has seen a few changes but for the most part has stayed relatively the same. With the aging, problems inevitably begin to arise in its constitution.

“It’s built to last, but it’s been up for 91 years now. So we are starting to get a lot of cracking through the foundation,” junior Beta Risk Manager Joe Puntoriero said. “That was my main issue with the structure. We can’t live here. It will maybe last another five years and then at best it will just keep faltering even more.”

The need for the demolition and rebuilding of the house is a result of many different factors. The house has begun to lean to the west, split away from the porch and deteriorate in numerous areas due to the weight imposed on it by the residents in addition to its old age.

The house also contains asbestos, mold and an outdated heating system. This makes the house not only uncomfortable to live in during winter months, but at times unhealthy for the residents.

“That’s our main issue right now … it’s not a healthy dwelling,” Puntoriero said. “We are living in there and it had been an ongoing joke, something called ‘the Beta plague.’ You live there your first month and you’re sick.”

Due to this, the house has been unable to reach health code. These health issues are a major concern not only to the current members, but a worry in recruiting new members to Beta.

“I don’t know of any exact cases, but we had guys in the house who [said] that they thought about not pledging just because of how bad of a shape the house is,” senior Beta President Cale Dahm said.

Despite these issues, Puntoriero, who is a State Farm agent and has experience accessing building liability, assured students that the house is still safe to live in and visit because of regulations and precautions set in place by members of the house’s risk management team.

“I don’t want to make it sound like the building is condemned and that no one should come in here. The way we manage the house is we know where people shouldn’t be,” Puntoriero said. “If you are entering the dwelling you will be safe. Betas know what to look for and we know where you can go.”

The idea of remodeling or replacing the house came about a few years ago, but lost steam as the president at the time graduated. The plan came back this summer as Puntoriero inspected the house quality as well as the issue of needing a sprinkler system.

The house needs to meet sprinkler requirements before the Jan. 1, 2013 deadline and the retrofit would need to begin June 1, 2012. This likely makes the $80,000 retrofit an “unfortunate necessity” before the old building can be replaced.

“[The retrofit] is to give us the time so we can keep fundraising and living in our house. Because if we don’t put it in, we become a vacant building and if any other organization wants to put up the $80,000, they get our house; and we are not ready to give that up,” Puntoriero said.

For fundraising, Beta sent out around 620 letters to Beta alumni from the chapters within 50 miles of campus, inviting them to the campus for homecoming to kick off the fundraising campaign.

“Beta has affected the Galesburg community immensely,” Puntoriero said. “We have impacted a lot of people and we are going to draw on those connections … Not so much asking for monetary [donations], but ‘hey I know your friend is a contractor, we are looking for one, do you think he might be interested in putting in a bid,’ those situations.”

The construction will take around 14 months once the funding has been raised,

“[Housing during those 14 months] is a big enough issue to where if 27 people on campus no longer have a house, campus is going to have to be involved,” junior Alumni Relations Officer Brian Paul said. The group is looking to find housing to help offset the members who would not be able to live there during reconstruction.

Beta hopes to also renew the 99-year lease from the college on the plot of land early before construction begins and the old lease is up in 2019.

The Beta house has been occupied by the fraternity for the same amount of time as the Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) house, making them the two longest occupied Greek houses on campus. The TKE house is older, but was occupied by a professor between 1907 and 1920, before the fraternity took control of the house.

John Williams

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