Aramark, the University of Central Arkansas’s food service provider, announced Friday that the company would gift $700,000 to the school’s foundation for use at the president’s residence.

The announcement was made at the school’s quarterly Board of Trustees meeting, said Vice President of Governmental Relations Jeff Pitchford, "to the surprise of everyone."

"Aramark has been our food service provider since 1976. Every time the president has an event at his home, Aramark is there to cater," said Pitchford. "There is a long-standing business partnership between Aramark and UCA. This was a great gesture on their part."

In a university release, Brad Crosson, district manager for Aramark, said, "Whatever is done to the house will aid us in entertaining the community at large and help fulfill the mission the university has."

The 75-year-old home designated to the university’s president and family is currently the residence of President Allen Meadors and his spouse. 

In past presidencies and in Meadors’ tenure, the house has seen much renovation.

Most recently, the renovations addressed safety hazards when the home was abated for lead and mold.

Over the summer, the school released that an "antiquated boiler system" would be replaced with an updated system, and windows would be replaced.

The recent renovations totaled around $200,000.

Meadors and his wife have resided elsewhere while awaiting the President’s Residence Advisory Committee’s recommendations for the future of the home.

Board of Trustees Chairman Scott Roussel formed the committee to determine if the home would adequately meet the university’s needs in the future. 

Those needs, he said, include a venue for hosting large scale parties for supporters and a home that would also adequately house a future president who may have children.

"The Board didn’t decide on what the exact plan would be at this point. We’re going to accept the gift and it will be used toward renovations or expansions of the house," said Pitchford.

Pitchford said that Shelley Mehl, vice president for advancement, and Diane Newton, vice president for finance and administration, would soon begin gathering rough cost estimates and reviewing concepts from an architectural firm that has presented preliminary drawings for the committee’s consideration "so that we know what some of the options are and how much those options will cost."

At Friday’s meeting, the Board also passed a resolution in support of a pedestrian walkway and bicycle trail project.

The university received a $234,000 Transportation Enhancement Grant through the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department for the construction of the trail.

The trail will allow students thoroughfare from Bear Village on Moix Boulevard, to the center of the campus.

An outdoor classroom will also be included in trail’s construction, according to UCA.

The trail will be located along Stone Dam Creek from Beatrice Powell Drive to Dave Ward Drive. The university will allocate $86,225 toward the project, which has a total estimated cost of $320,225.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)