U regents refuse Met Council request for audience, hear 2010 improvement plan

Met Council Chairman Peter Bell has attempted to speak before the board on multiple occasions.

by Taryn Wobbema

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents rejected a request by the Metropolitan Council to speak before the board Friday about issues surrounding the Central Corridor light-rail line . Clyde Allen, chairman of the board , said specific channels are already in place to address the issues and they should continue to be handled that way and not publicly. Met Council spokesman Steve Dornfeld said Chairman Peter Bell has attempted to address the regents on multiple occasions in the last year. He said the idea was to speak directly to the governing board instead of passing the information through staff. âÄúWe would like an opportunity to present our side,âÄù Dornfeld said. Dornfeld said the Met Council is currently working on a list of several major issues âÄî Bell and other project partners have been meeting with Kathleen OâÄôBrien , vice president of University Services, for about six months. The University filed suit against the Met Council in September after the final environmental impact statement had been submitted but the negative effects of the line on the University had not been resolved. At the regents meeting Friday, Allen voiced frustration over the accusation that the University is bringing up new issues with the light-rail line. He said they are not new. Through the lawsuit, the University is seeking to protect research facilities that would be affected by vibrations and electromagnetic interferences. Allen also said the University is concerned about how it will be affected during the construction process. Dormfeld said the Met Council has been working to address the effects of the project on the UniversityâÄôs research facilities, but this month officials brought back several issues that he said were thought to have been resolved. Dornfeld said the University has âÄúresurrectedâÄù issues concerning a free-fair zone, reimbursements for consultants and for lost parking. Construction on the $941 million Central Corridor, which will use University and Washington avenues to connect downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, is set to begin late next summer and should be completed in 2014. On Wednesday, officials from the University and the Met Council agreed to come to terms on their differences by Dec. 1. 2010 capital improvement previewed University administrators revealed their plan to request $149.6 million in University-funded projects in the 2010 budget to the Board of Regents on Friday. In the newest version of the UniversityâÄôs six-year infrastructure improvement plan, âÄî updated annually for the board âÄî administrators unveiled a much less specific look at future projects, a change attributed to the uncertainty of financing. Before this year, the long-term plan listed projects that would likely come up over the next five years. In place of the list, administrators presented a set of five principles that will be used to choose the future projects. Robert Jones, senior vice president for system academic administration , said the principles align with the UniversityâÄôs academic goals, including serving students, research and the state while managing investments wisely and taking new financial realities into consideration. Future projects will be re-evaluated based on the criteria, administrators said. OâÄôBrien said the new approach âÄúreflects the new normalâÄù for the University in light of decreased state funding. The 2010 plan showed that, besides $242 million in state-assisted building plans, administrators will request that next yearâÄôs budget allow for $149.6 million in projects completely funded by the University. The list includes a $59 million expansion of the Twin CitiesâÄô recreation center and renovations to Northrop Auditorium costing $70 million. The plan also includes $5.5 million for the Child and Family Center as part of the UniversityâÄôs partnership with North Minneapolis and $15.1 million for repair and renovation projects relating to campus services like housing, dining, parking and transportation and bookstores. Regents will approve a 2010 budget in the spring.