By Adeline Wilson and Jacob Abrahamson:
SGA plans for a well-lit, patrolled walking path are coming to fruition after months of planning.
According to Mitchell Payne, the senior associate vice president for business affairs, construction on the L Trail will begin in two weeks. The main issue facing the project was funding.
“The project is a go, it definitely will be done, and funding is not an issue,” said Payne, who said that the university plans to contribute funds to the project beyond the $20,000 SGA and the Interfraternity Council have already committed. “We’re going to contribute whatever else is needed. It’s not limited at $20,000 right now.”
According to U of L spokesperson Mark Hebert, the first phase is set to be implemented quickly.
“The hope is that they get started on the lighting before the end of the school year,” he said. “So it’s going to be happening here pretty quick.”
Currently, five upgraded lights have already been put into place in the area between Grawemeyer Hall and Gardiner Hall as a trial.
Payne says that the original lights have been recycled and upgraded in a process that will be implemented throughout the trail. According to SGA President Monali Haldankar, there is a significant difference in visibility in the test areas.
In addition, the original plan proposed by SGA, which had an estimated cost of $43,000, is set to be expanded to include lighting on building and sidewalks on the edges of campus.
“We did an expanded walk around campus in this present week at night so we could see what the lighting was like on paths adjacent to the L Trail,” said Payne. “So it’ll be more than ($43,000), but whatever it is we’ll be paying for that.”
“The L Trail will now reach from Grawemeyer Hall through the center of campus, reaching the Student Activities Center, ending at Bettie Johnson Hall,” said SGA Service Vice President Morgan Cooksey. “This will include brighter, more sustainable lights, signage with ULPD information and safety tips and a dedicated patrol.”
One new ULPD officer has been hired to assist with the new patrol, said Cooksey.
“We are hoping that this relieves some of the stress of the escorts. If we have a safe walk from the library to a residence hall or to a dining hall or to the student activities center, then students won’t need an escort from A to B. The escorts are so overwhelmed right now, and there is no funding for that either,” said Cooksey.
There will also be alarm buttons installed on light poles.
Cooksey is currently working with Services Vice President-Elect Kaylee Brandt to secure $5,000 in the SGA budget for yearly upkeep.
SGA was initially surprised at the university’s announcement of full funding. As recently as Tuesday’s Student Senate meeting, Cooksey announced that funding concerns would likely cause the first phase to be scaled back.
“The news of University funding was unexpected,” said Cooksey. “While the news was unexpected, SGA is ecstatic to move forward with the L Trail as a campus safety initiative. The University decided to move forward after assessing the feasibility of the project in the University’s budget and the success of a few demonstration pilot lights”
The plan, which was first announced in the fall after increased crime activity, may have been pushed to final approval by last week’s three Rave Alerts.
“In light of heightened security concerns, the University has made safety even more of a priority,” said Cooksey. “I think that it is unfortunate that, in any type of public administration, that crisis is usually an instigator, and policy usually comes after the crisis.”
It has, however, been a work in progress for most of the school year. According to Cooksey, U of L administration stepped back and allowed students and ULPD to develop the plan.
“I appreciate the President’s ability to recognize that maybe ULPD or the students would know what to do best with the money. They recognized the students’ issue, but ULPD had most of the discretion with that,” she said. “I think that had intentions of what that money was to be used for, but ultimately, it was ULPD’s discretion.”
Hebert said that students played a big role in supporting the initiative.
“My understanding is the SGA has really done a good job pushing this and working with the administration to try and get this done,” he said. “Students have really stepped up.”
“I think that the Student Government Association have been great to work with on this project,” Payne added. “We’re ready to make a go out of it.”