U puts ambulatory center on capital request

After many false starts to building, regents approved an ambulatory care center on a preliminary 2012 capital request.

Evelina Smirnitskaya

After multiple failed attempts to build, the University of Minnesota has put an ambulatory care center on its capital funding request in hopes of getting state money. On Wednesday regents approved the preliminary 2012 request that includes $100 million for the center of outpatient specialty clinics.

The University requests money for large capital projects annually. If granted for the center, it would make up half the required funding. Usually, state support pays for about two-thirds of capital projects.

The preliminary request included six other projects, three of which are still pending in the current legislative session, though it will likely not produce the funds because of the budget impasse. Those three are a physics and nanotechnology building, an American Indian Learning Resource Center and improvements to the Itasca research station.

Another of the new additions is a request for “space optimization” funds for Eddy Hall and other campus buildings.

Overall, the 2012 plan calls for almost $300 million from the state for projects that would cost the state and the school a combined $460 million.

Although it’s too early to put one project ahead of another, Kathleen OâÄôBrien, vice president of University Services, said the ambulatory care clinic is likely to be a top priority.

The new facility would replace existing clinics that were designed in late 1960s and are considered largely outdated. âÄúI think everyone here understands its significance,âÄù O’Brien said of the ambulatory care clinic.

Regent John Frobenius has passionately supported the project, calling a new clinic âÄúcriticalâÄù for the University. But he added that other items on the plan require further review, a sentiment echoed by other regents.

The $81 million plan to renovate the Old Main Steam Plant for heat and power utility drew questions from Regent Dean Johnson, while Regent Steve Sviggum said he did not feel comfortable voting on a plan that was not prioritized.

But the board approved the first draft of the request unanimously, and will review the final draft at the September meeting.

âÄúYouâÄôll have another bite of this apple in the fall,âÄù University CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter told the board.

At the meeting, the regents also formally welcomed new President Eric Kaler.

He told the board his top priority is maintaining and enhancing the UniversityâÄôs excellence. âÄúThereâÄôs much work to be done,âÄù he said. He added that more tuition hikes are likely and commented on what he saw as a high number of administrative staff.

Kaler will join the regents for the next two days at a retreat in Owatonna, where the board will plan its goals for the next two years.