When the Minnesota legislature considers a bill to fund construction projects next year, MSUM will focus on getting money for smaller fixes, not major projects.
Officials in charge of university facilities presented a $2.7 million request for four of the campus’s “most pressing maintenance and repair needs” to Senate Capital Investment Committee members, who stopped at M State Wednesday morning. The prioritized list calls for replacing aged underground steam pipes ($820,000) installing new field lights at Nemzek ($496,000), reroofing part of MacLean ($627,000) and securing stone panels at the CA ($793,000).
“It’s critical for us to maintain our buildings and increase efficiency,” Jan Mahoney, vice president for finance and administration, told the committee before members toured a proposed M State transportation building.
Mahoney said the list of projects is derived from MSUM’s master facilities plan.
“We’re not looking for any new buildings,” she said. “All we’re looking to do is to get the buildings we have up to par.”
Although MSUM has identified about $10.4 million in immediate needs, eight projects didn’t make the cut this cycle including wheelchair ramps at MacLean and Murray, new air handling units in Owens and Bridges and a second phase of water-main replacement throughout campus. That’s because the university must balance its needs with those of the 31 other MnSCU campuses.
In turn, higher education needs represent only one part of the state’s construction bill, which also funds many other facilities and flood control projects. The bills usually pass in even years and range from $500 million to $1 billion in size.
For a complete list of construction requests throughout the system, visit finance.mnscu.edu/facilities/capitalbudget/index.html. MnSCU uses an elaborate scoring method (the sheet is also available on the website) to create the priorities list.
A larger MSUM request – separate from the maintenance/repair list – to thoroughly renovate “a very tired” looking Weld, didn’t score high enough for next year’s request, Mahoney said.
The four projects that did make the list might not be terribly exciting, but they are important for increasing energy efficiency and safety, said physical plant manager Jeff Goebel.
In a Powerpoint presentation to the senate committee, he pointed out:
The new steam pipes will save more than $100,000 in fuel each year. And only 40 percent of the 58-year-old Nemzek lights are operating because they are no longer safe. The new ones will be brighter, stronger and more energy efficient. Reroofing MacLean will stop the perpetual battle to plug leaks after rain events and improve the insulation. Finally, securing the stone panels at the CA will reduce heat loss and allow for removal of asbestos.
Goebel noted MSUM has made significant strides in fixing up buildings over the past decade, but will rapidly fall behind again “without continued investment in the next few years.”
Mahoney said she didn’t expect the university to receive its full $2.7 million request, but committee member Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, said MSUM is well positioned given the high priority leaders are placing on maintaining current facilities.
“I’m hopeful,” said Eken, who represents campus and is a former adjunct faculty member. “There’s still a lot of competition our there, but they made a very compelling case.”
The capital investment tour continued with stops in Crookston, Thief River Falls, Bemidji and Park Rapids later in the week.
Meeting with local leaders and touring facilities is valuable, Eken said.
“It’s important because we have so many proposals,” he said, “and only so much money to go around.”
BY BRYCE HAUGEN