Health, safety top 2004 capital request

Jake Weyer

Health and safety will be the top priorities of the University’s 2004 capital request to the Legislature, University President Bob Bruininks said Friday in a presentation to the Board of Regents.

Of approximately $155 million in requested state bonding, $90 million is designated to improve existing buildings, employee health and safety, and security. Bruininks recommended the University issue approximately $33 million of its own bonds to fund critical facilities needs.

The University pays interest on one-third of all state bonds except on those designated for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement, for which the $90 million is earmarked. Money with this designation can be used to repair existing buildings and improve health and safety but cannot be used for the construction of new facilities, said Brian Swanson, an officer in the University’s Office of Budget and Finance.

Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement requests have increased over the past few years, University officials said.

“Our first goal is to always take care of the facilities that we have,” Swanson said. “When you’ve got as much space as we’ve got, there are some things that you’ve just got to replace.”

In a presentation to the Board of Regents, Bruininks said $74 million of the remaining requested money is for major building renewals such as the Kolthoff Hall renovation. Twenty million dollars will be used to construct new facilities on the Duluth and Morris campuses, and $4.7 million will be used to plan for 2006 academic priorities, including expansion of the Carlson School of Management.

Regents at the meeting thought Bruininks’ proposed capital request was appropriate.

“When you look at how much we’re spending per square foot, it’s very little,” Regent Clyde Allen said. “This is a very practical request.”

The University owns 57,176 acres of property and 819 buildings on the Twin Cities, Morris, Crookston and Duluth campuses, according to a University Services report.

University officials said the institution almost never receives the full amount of money it requests. In 2002, the University received approximately $114 million of the $186.6 million it requested from the state, Swanson said. He said the University’s requests are accurate and need-based.

“We do pretty serious cost estimating on each project,” he said.

The Board of Regents will decide whether to approve the capital request at their October meeting.

Also on Friday, the Board of Regents discussed declining student alcohol and tobacco use on campus and said University employee diversity is increasing.