U asks Senate for Ventura-vetoed building and renovation funds

Emily Johns

University officials testified before the Senate Capital Investment Committee on Wednesday afternoon, asking for funding for seven building projects.

The University asked the committee for $40.7 million of state money to complete construction projects that are either in predesign or bidding phases.

The University is responsible for providing $20.3 million, one-third of the projects’ costs.

Although the Legislature usually does not consider bonding proposals in odd-numbered years, the University and several lawmakers support repassing projects former Gov. Jesse Ventura vetoed last session.

Six of the University construction projects are in different stages of predesign or planning.

Ventura put one project, the Nicholson Hall renovation, on hold – rather than outright vetoing it – after the Legislature approved funding.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer and treasurer, presented the projects to the committee.

Pfutzenreuter said the University’s top priority is the Translational Research Facility on the East Bank campus.

An anonymous donor is willing to contribute $10 million to the project, but Pfutzenreuter said the project must move quickly.

“That donor’s money is very mobile,” Pfutzenreuter said, and the University wants the project authorized this session.

“We’d hate to lose that money,” he said.

Pfutzenreuter said translational research helps turn scientific research into human medical applications.

Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, gave an example of translational research to the committee. She said University researchers are studying hibernating bears in Colorado. While hibernating, the bears only lose 7 percent of their muscle mass. Translational research, for example, tries to find a way to translate that knowledge to humans immobilized for a long time after surgery, so they can retain some of their muscle mass.

Pfutzenreuter also proposed the Jones Hall renovation, which would include renewing the building’s structure and creating a home for the College of Liberal Arts’ Language Center and the University’s admissions programs.

Pfutzenreuter requested funds for the design of an Institute of Technology Teaching and Technology Facility between the Radisson Hotel Metrodome and the aquatic center on the East Bank.

The University will not request money for the facility until 2004. Pfutzenreuter said the building would provide all-purpose laboratories, science classrooms and facilities for expanding IT programs.

The University’s proposal also included a renovation of the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, which serves as the Minnesota Board of Animal Health’s official state laboratory.

The project would replace labs built and equipped in 1959 and provide additional space for modern testing for diseases such as West Nile virus and chronic wasting disease, Pfutzenreuter said.

Sen. Dennis Frederickson, R-New Ulm, said getting the veterinary project running is important because of Minnesota’s strong investment and dependence on agriculture and animals.

“It makes huge economic sense and health sense,” he said.

Emily Johns covers politics and welcomes comments at [email protected]