IT hopes to receive state funding forKolthoff renovation

With the recent transformation of Walter Library and Coffman Union, representatives from the Institute of Technology hope the University will turn its focus to another building – Kolthoff Hall.

The Institute of Technology hopes to reclaim space in Kolthoff Hall for additional chemistry research and teaching labs. But before these labs are set up, the building requires a new ventilation system and other safety upgrades, totaling $24 million.

IT faculty met Wednesday to discuss the matter with students, other faculty and alumni.

The chemistry department needs new hoods in the building to conduct experiments safely, chemistry department Chairman Wayne Gladfelter said. The hoods are meant to pull toxins out of the building and also to treat air coming back into the building. The vacated space – about 10,000 square feet – once occupied by undergraduate zoology classes, is not suitable for chemistry labs without the hoods.

In addition to ventilation needs, the building does not have a sprinkler system.

The University will include the Kolthoff renovation in its $188.7 million 2004 capital request to the Legislature, University lobbyist Donna Peterson said.

The request will propose the University contribute $7.2 million and ask the Legislature to contribute $18 million in Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement funds for the upgrade. The higher education contribution is part of a building renewal plan that also includes buildings on the University’s St. Paul and Duluth campuses.

Gladfelter and IT Dean H. Ted Davis are leading the request for funding.

Gladfelter said the chemistry department has requested funding from the University for 10 years.

Poor facilities affect recruitment for the chemistry and physics departments, Davis said.

“Chemistry and physics are not up to code, which impacts the ability to recruit professors,” Davis said.

Gladfelter said he hopes the Legislature will see how important the project is the University and to the state.

The extent of the renovations will depend on how the money is used, he said.

“It depends how far $24 million can be stretched. I think it’s unlikely that we will be doing wholesale movement of walls,” Gladfelter said.

Minnesota House Higher Education Finance Committee Chairman Gene Pelowski, D-Winona, said the Kolthoff request will have a good chance of receiving funding.

He said the House puts a higher priority on renovating buildings than on building new ones, and it is particularly interested in science buildings on campus.

Pelowski said the House will probably receive $700 million from the governor to spend on building requests received from the state. He said the building requests will probably total more than $2 billion.

“We’ve been as generous as we can be,” Pelowski said. “But the needs are well beyond the request.”

Legislators are likely to place priority on the project, Peterson said.

“Legislators see this as a project that can’t wait because of the safety issues involved,” Peterson said.

House Higher Education Finance Committee Vice Chairman Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, agreed the Kolthoff renovation will have a good chance in the Legislature, but everything depends on how much money lawmakers will have in the capital investment bill.

“I feel like the University will be on our higher priority list,” Nornes said. “It looks favorable, but the big question is how big will our bonding bill be?”

Pelowski said the University’s best bet to receive the funding is to prioritize its requests when it proposes them to the state.

“The University needs to send us a clear list,” Pelowski said. “(In previous years) we’d receive requests where everything was ranked No. 1. The University needs to prioritize.”

The University’s capital request will be submitted to the governor’s office. The governor will make his recommendations to the Legislature in early January.

The University’s request will seek funding for four buildings, including Kolthoff.