The University of Connecticut has been paying tens of thousands of dollars to rent and fix up a five-bedroom house near campus for new UConn President Michael Hogan despite spending more than $1 million to renovate the official president's house up the street three years ago.
Hogan declined to move to the president's house on Oak Hill Road because his wife, Virginia, had a severe allergic reaction to mold and mildew there, UConn spokeswoman Karen Grava said Thursday.
Since October, the university has spent $4,000 a month, or $32,000 to date, to rent the 10-room home at 88 Gurleyville Road, and thousands more to clean, paint and generally fix it up as an office and home for the Hogans.
And now the UConn Foundation, the university's fundraising arm, is trying to raise money to buy the house and do even more renovations to turn it into the permanent presidential residence for the couple, whose children are grown.
The house was previously at the center of controversy when UConn agreed to lease the 5-acre site to former Provost John D. Petersen so he could build the Southern Colonial-style house there in 2001.
Faculty at the time grumbled that the Petersen arrangement was overly generous. When Petersen resigned in 2004, he left the university in a quandary because it had an expensive private house on university land.
Longtime UConn benefactor Philip Lodewick and his wife, Christine, stepped in and bailed out the university.
They bought the house in 2004 for $835,000 and paid UConn another $90,000 for the land. Their friends have lived in the house for the past three years.
Lodewick initially rented the house to the university under a yearlong lease, starting in October.
The Hogans needed a place to stay when Hogan took office in August because former UConn President Philip E. Austin had not moved out of the president's mansion.
Austin had asked to remain in the mansion until work on his West Hartford condominium was complete, Grava said. Austin moved out in November, Grava said.
Under the lease for the house, UConn took control of the premises "as is," "which meant that the university was responsible for cleanup, painting and repairs," Grava said.
UConn paid for the repairs, and paid the rent, with money from the university's budget, Grava said.
Grava said the Hogans discovered that the Petersen house functions well as a place to welcome and entertain alumni and donors.
After consulting with the board of trustees and leaders at the private UConn Foundation, the foundation began to raise money from donors to buy and renovate the house as the university's presidential residence.
Grava said she did not know the price of the Petersen house, nor the estimated cost of planned renovations.
Foundation officials could not be reached for comment.
The university now plans to use the president's house for meetings, lectures and other activities, but does not plan to remove the mold and mildew, Grava said.
The university completed a $1 million renovation and expansion of the president's house in 2004, complete with a new kitchen with granite countertops, a family room with a cathedral ceiling, a whirlpool bath and nearly $30,000 in custom furniture.
The initial budget for the project was $300,000, but change orders, including mold removal, inflated the cost.