Most projects to continue despite state budget cuts

By Jed Layton, Asst. News Editor

The U is continuing to plan, construct and renovate university buildings, despite budget cuts being implemented by the Utah Legislature.

Fred Esplin, vice president of institutional advancement, said the U shouldn’t stop constructing buildings. He said to do so would hurt students, the U and the surrounding community.

“A university needs to keep growing or it starts to die,” he said. “It is like anything else8212;if you aren’t moving forward, you are moving backward.”

However, budget cuts made by the Legislature will have a direct impact on the construction and maintenance of U buildings, said Paul Brinkman, associate vice president of budget and planning.

The U’s capital budget, which funds educational costs, was cut 4 percent last year in a special session for this fiscal year. The Legislature cut the budget by an additional 3.5 percent in January.

Cuts have not yet been made to the operations budget, which provides the U with money to run and maintain buildings.

Mike Perez, associate vice president for facilities management, said cuts to the operations budget could move money from other sources to keep new buildings lighted, heated and cleaned. New buildings on campus include the Warnock Engineering Building and the Sutton Geology Building.

The U also saves a small amount of money for minor repairs and improvement renovations for specific parts of campus.

“For example, last year we created a restroom fund,” Brinkman said.

Brinkman said he expects funds for improvement projects to decrease as budget cuts move money to pay for faculty and programs.

“It is human nature to want to save jobs over walls and a roof,” he said. “But without a classroom, how can you have a class?”

Money from these sources allows the U to do renovations like those underway in the Union.

On the upside, Perez said, many new buildings are not affected by decisions made by the Legislature.

He said buildings that are funded privately by the U, whether through private loans or donations, will not be influenced by the Legislature.

Planned Buildings:

1. USTAR complex:

The USTAR complex will be built on the golf course and will house researchers working with the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative.

In a move to give back funding to Utah agencies, the Utah Legislature removed nearly $50 million in cash that was originally intended for the building. Kim Wirthlin, U vice president for government relations, said she expected the building to be bonded instead.

“The USTAR is moving forward, period. There will be no delay in construction,” said Mike Perez, vice president of facilities management. said. Perez said he expects construction to start late spring or early summer.

2. Universe Project:

The Legislature will have no effect on whether or not the Universe Project will be built because the proposed development would be paid for with private loans.

The Universe Project is a proposed mixed-use development that would be built on the Rice-Eccles Stadium parking lot adjacent to the TRAX station. U administrators, developers and design teams are holding community workshops to get feedback from the community regarding construction.

3. David Eccles School of Business Building

The U is asking the Legislature for resources to construct a new business school building. Paul Brinkman, associate vice president for budget and planning, said funding would come through bonding. Utah has a Triple-A bonding rate, the best available.

“We are requesting state funds for 25 percent of the project value,” said Mike Perez, vice president of facilities management.

The business school is at the top of a list of buildings the Utah State Board of Regents proposed to be funded this year. However, it is competing for attention with other state buildings.

Fred Esplin, vice president of institutional advancement, said the U is heavily lobbying the Legislature to provide the funding for this building.

“This is probably the most important building for us this year,” he said.

Perez said that if bonds come through, construction would begin this summer.

4. College of Nursing

Mike Perez, vice president of facilities management, said the College of Nursing building is a major remodeling project that is underway.

“The occupants are moved and the money is in the bank,” he said.

Brinkman said the Legislature provided a one-time package last year for funding, on the condition that the U could provide matching donations, which it did.

5. Marriott Library:

Mike Perez, vice president of facilities management, said the construction on the library is nearing completion as renovations are being made near the west entrance. The Legislature paid for part of the renovations, Brinkman said.

“There is no fear about funding not coming through for the library,” Brinkman said. “Funding is done, it is safe.”

6. Utah Museum of Natural History:

Funding was given one year ago for the new museum building, said Paul Brinkman, associate vice president for budget and planning,. However, he said it could be possible for the U to exchange the previously given cash for bonding.

“If they got desperate for additional revenue they could bond,” he said. “But they normally try to avoid borrowing if they can help it.”

Mike Perez, vice president of facilities management, said there would be no negative legislative impact on the museum project.

7. Huntsman Cancer Hospital addition:

Mike Perez, vice president of facilities management, said funding for the additions to the Huntsman Cancer Hospital was provided through donations, hospital funding and private bonding.

“The additions were paid for privately,” he said. “The Legislature will not impact its construction.”

Perez said the designs for the building are near completion. Construction will begin soon after designs are finished.

8. Park Building:

Paul Brinkman, associate vice president for budget and planning, said the U gets $12 million to $15 million each year from the Legislature to do major preventative maintenance on campus buildings. The construction under way on the Park Building was paid for with this funding.

“We will see how it survives through the budget cuts and sour economy,” Brinkman said.

Brinkman said he hopes the funding will not be cut , because it provides badly needed money to renovate old buildings.

“This campus is old,” he said. “The walls are old, the pipes are old. It needs preventative maintenance or else it will start to fall apart.”

Mike Perez, vice president of facilities management, said the renovations are mostly done and only landscaping is needed once the weather allows for it.