Members of the Washburn University board of regents on Thursday approved on a 5-4 vote a $100,000 amendment to the school’s contract with Chartwells dining services.
Jim Martin, vice president of administration and treasurer, told the nine-member board that Chartwells had requested the one-time payment to cover start-up costs for opening the dining facility in the new Lincoln Hall dormitory in fall 2016. In return, he said, Chartwells would pay back the $100,000 over a five-year period if Washburn can increase the number of commuter meal plans sold and get the dormitories at 100 percent occupancy for the 2017-18 school year.
“It will be a stretch goal,” Martin said, acknowledging that the average occupany rate is 80 percent. “If we fill up the dorms, Washburn and Chartwells will be very, very happy.”
The contract with Chartwells is in effect until 2025, Martin said, and includes Chartwells providing $750,000 in benefits, as well as $15,000 in scholarships to Washburn. The contract that has been in effect since 2009 includes a 60-day notice of cancellation for both Chartwells and Washburn.
Several of the regents who voted against the $100,000 amendment said they didn’t like that Chartwells could cancel the $2.3 million contract with only a 60-day notice if Washburn wasn’t able to increase the campus dorm occupancy rate or meal plans purchased.
“It looks like we have a contract that we’re not too delighted with,” regent Paul Hoferer said before voting in favor of the amendment. “The message is we need to work on a couple of provisions.”
Regent Bill Sneed voted against the lump sum payment, saying it represents “an extreme departure from our bidding process.”
“Chartwells has been a good partner, but this is not the right way to address this issue,” he said. “This contract would allow other vendors to think they can make similar demands.”
Also on Thursday, the regents approved a fiscal year 2018 general fund of $89,249,889 for the main campus and $10,949,100 for the Washburn Institute of Technology.
Martin said increases in the general fund are for 1.5 percent salary increases, an expansion of mental health and veterans services and the Ichabod Ignite program for helping at-risk students.
The regents approved publishing the 2017-18 public budget, which Martin said hasn’t been finalized, on July 17 in The Topeka Capital-Journal, 10 days before a July 27 meeting in which they are expected to vote on it after a public hearing.
Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or @AngelaDeines on Twitter.