Capital budget highlights safety

Next year’s capital improvement budget could fund upgrades like more lighting and cameras on campus.

by Tyler Gieseke

The University of Minnesota’s proposed capital improvement budget for next year provides funding for safety initiatives, more efficient technology and improvements to campus buildings, among other projects.

The Board of Regents will vote on the budget on Friday during its monthly meeting. With the board’s approval, almost all of the capital improvement projects will proceed as planned, said Suzanne Smith, assistant vice president for Capital Planning and Project Management.

Part of the capital budget funding each year comes from the state when the Legislature passes its bonding bill in the spring — and nearly all the state-dependent projects in the current budget proposal received funding.

About 40 percent of the funding for the projects will come from the state.

“We did really well this year,” Smith said.

Morrill Hall makeover

An off-color pink paint garnishes the walls of Morrill Hall’s ground floor, while duct tape holds the carpet together in some places.

Many employees who work in the space say it’s an unappealing work environment, and for them, the $750,000 renovation planned in the capital budget won’t come a moment too soon.

The ground floor houses workspace for University Relations, marketing, and Government and Community Relations.

“University Relations should be the place that’s putting the best foot forward for the University,” said University spokesman Chuck Tombarge, who has an office on Morrill Hall’s ground floor. “This space doesn’t reflect that.”

One section of the ground floor will be gutted as part of the renovations, which are scheduled to begin June 30, said University Relations Chief of Staff Bobby Wangaard. The upgrade will improve ventilation and create more open workspace near windows, she said.

Employees are scheduled to be back on the ground floor in October and will be dispersed among floors within Morrill Hall and other University buildings in the meantime, she said.

Updating lights, roadways

Another piece of the capital budget would provide funding for ongoing projects aiming to increase transportation efficiency on campus.

About $2.15 million will be allocated for the second phase of a three-year plan to put motion-sensitive LED lights in all University parking garages, Allanson said, adding that he expects about $174,000 in annual savings from the project.

The lights operate on minimal energy and get brighter when a car or person travels by, said Brian Swanson, assistant vice president and chief financial officer for University Services.

Nearly $2 million of the capital budget is reserved for rebuilding a section of Pleasant Street between Eddy Hall and Johnston Hall next summer, Allanson said. The project, which will cost about $3 million in total, could include a redesign of the street and sidewalks, he said.

PTS leads Safety Upgrades

After the University area’s spike in crime last fall, part of next year’s capital improvement budget proposal will go toward adding more lighting and cameras for campus safety.

The budget includes a $750,000 safety upgrade project led by Parking and Transportation Services. According to PTS director Ross Allanson, approximately $350,000 will cover installation of new cameras and lighting near bus shelters, and about $40,000 will go toward an additional Code Blue Emergency Telephone. The phones are stationed around campus to give students immediate access to emergency services.

“It was just an alignment with the increased concern for safety on campus,” Allanson said.

About $210,000 will go toward replacing cameras that are old and functioning poorly, Allanson said, and project managers will set some of the remaining money aside to dip into when they need it.

Specific locations and installation dates aren’t set for the bus shelter lighting and camera additions, but the process for those decisions will begin if the funding is approved, Allanson said.