By MIKE MORRIS
THE PICKET – Fiscal responsibility tops Shepherd University’s new president’s agenda as she scales back spending on her home and car.
Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix will not be living in the Popodicon house, the 109-year-old Colonial Revival house behind Burkhart Hall and the Center for Contemporary Art that has been the traditional home of the university’s president since its purchase by the University in 1964, nor will she be using an official university car for transportation, opting instead to use her own private vehicle. James Vigil, interim vice president for finance, said Hendrix’s use of her own car will save the university $6,800 a year. Exactly how much the school will save on housing is still being calculated, but it is known that $10,200 a year will be saved on monthly cleaning.
“Going into Popodicon would’ve involved an expensive and extensive cleaning contract that was stopped. I was kind of surprised at how much it was,” Hendrix said. “There are a lot of frogs [in the house] and many, many flies,” Hendrix said of the house’s condition.
She also ruled out living in the house for the time being. “Popodicon will not be fixed unless we can identify funds and right now that is not a priority. Items will be fixed as we can afford to do them. It’s just going to be patched. I think we’ll be able to use the first floor only to entertain when the fall comes and that’s what we’ll do.”
“[The Popodicon] is a beautiful facility that was given to Shepherd and we have to be the best stewards. My understanding is that because past presidents and interim presidents were coming in an out so quickly, there was never any time to [renovate].”
Instead of the Popodicon house, Dr. Hendrix will be living in a home at the end of Shepherd Grade Road that has been in her family since 1944.
Hendrix’s thrift is a reaction to the current state of Shepherd’s finances, which have been in the spotlight recently due to budget cuts from the state and alleged misappropriation of funds.
The State Auditor’s Office released an audit of the university in October 2015, alleging the purchase of $86,000 on items such as “clothing, auto parts, jewelry, cosmetics, Halloween costumes, luggage, purses, perfume, and other items.” The Picket reported in February that Elizabeth “Libby” Shanton, former dean of Student Affairs at Shepherd, was sentenced to five years probation and $6,246.43 in financial restitution for her role in the fraudulent purchases.
The audit also alleged that university employees were getting around the transaction limit on their school-issued purchasing cards by splitting purchases into two or more transactions, thus spending more than they were allowed. The Auditor’s Office said that the policies to prevent such misuse from happening are “either not understood by multiple levels of management or are being ignored.”
The tightening of purse strings is only writ larger due to Shepherd’s status as the lowest-funded institution of higher learning in West Virginia. Shepherd was left with $9,831,330 from the state for the 2015-16 fiscal year after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin slashed $90,000 from the original budget that passed the legislature, the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports. The Picket reported in March that Shepherd has seen a nearly 16 percent decrease in state funding between the 2012-13 fiscal year and today.
Dr. Hendrix is aware that her cost-cutting measures are not sitting well with everyone. “”I have to tell you, there are members of the community who are not happy that the president is not living there, it’s really quite amazing, many of them are really upset, it was a tradition,” she said.