Legislature approves U’s primary projects

By Natalie Hale

The Utah State Legislature approved the U’s nursing building renovation, which includes financing for a new cooling plant, and a bond to fund a Student Life Center on Wednesday.

Kim Wirthlin, U vice president for government relations, was all smiles over the fulfillment of the U’s primary legislative goals.

“This has been an outstanding year,” Wirthlin said. “Higher education as a whole did extremely well.”

Wirthlin credits the U’s success to working closely with leaders inside the House of Representatives and Senate this session.

Thanks to swift amendments by Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, and House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Salt Lake City, both projects were included in budgets to be funded.

Jenkins amended House Bill 150 to include $13.5 million in funds to renovate the U’s nursing building and cooling plant, while Curtis amended House Bill 473 to include approval for a $42-million bond to fund construction for the Student Life Center.

Both amendments passed.

The renovation of the nursing building would primarily provide more space for instructors and include a modern patient simulation center. The money would also be used to build a cooler plant for the building.

The bond for the Student Life Center was excluded from the Capitol Facilities agenda earlier in the session because it was believed to not have enough support to pass.

Student Body President Jake Kirkham said after it was excluded that it would take a miracle to get the bond approved.

“We got our miracle,” Kirkham said when HB 473 passed yesterday.

“Kim Wirthlin and Speaker Curtis really came through for us,” Kirkham said. “This was a big deal to us and to get it done is quite exciting.”

The Student Life Center would serve as a gathering place for students and include exercise facilities, study areas, a juice bar, classroom space and a media center.

While the bond for the life center was approved, U administrators must provide $15 million in private donations before plans to construct the building can begin.

The bond will be repaid through student fees of approximately $40 to $60 per semester.

Overall this year was a successful one for the U, Wirthlin said.

“It helped that we had a great economy, and this is the second surplus year,” Wirthlin said. “We are glad that the Legislature was able to spread the love.”