Regents increase budget to cover Walter renovation

Elizabeth Putnam

After two years of construction, the East Bank’s Walter Library opened its doors to students last week – and the University is still struggling to pay the bills.

The Board of Regents voted Friday to add $7.5 million to the University’s capital budget, making up for funds lost during the project’s semester-long delay.

The added $7.5 million raises the total budget for the project to nearly $64 million.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, associate vice president for budget and finance, said the University is drafting a settlement with Mortensen MA Construction, the library’s renovators.

“We were anticipating the settlement,” Pfutzenreuter said. “It’s a legal matter that caused the delay.”

The capital budget funds University construction projects and draws from state appropriations and internal resources or, in this case, University bondholders, Pfutzenreuter said.

The state Legislature appropriated approximately $56 million in 1989 and 1998 for the project, and the University contributed $150,000.

The library – which has been closed since 1999 for restoration – was projected to open in Sept. 2001.

But Mark Rotenberg, University general counsel, said a number of design components were not properly accounted for in earlier estimates.

“We are exploring the different issues and hope to resolve it soon,” Rotenberg said.

The science and engineering portion of the library – which caters to Institute of Technology students – was completed in December.

The Digital Technology Center is expected to open by mid-March.

Don Kelsey, Walter Library facility planner, said the project will be regarded as an incredible historical restoration achievement.

“We turned a nearly 80-year-old building into one of the most technologically advanced buildings on campus,” said Kelsey. “We combined two different objectives in one building.”

Rotenberg said the restoration was essential.

“The project was a marriage of historical reference and a new millenium technological design,” Rotenberg said.

The library houses three high-ceiling reading rooms for all University students, said Peggy Johnson, interim University librarian.

“It showcases the newest in library technology,” Johnson said.

She said a portion of the project’s budget was devoted to art and statues.

“It’s an inviting place because it looks out onto the mall, which will draw students from all majors,” Johnson said.

In other regent news, the Facilities Committee consented to a $365,000 capital budget amendment to fund minor changes to the recently built University Avenue Parking Ramp and Pedestrian Connections.

Eric Kruse, vice president for University services, said the facility needs code corrections and minor design alterations, such as additional handrails.

Elizabeth Putnam welcomes comments at [email protected]