Friday, September 21, 2018

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UW-EC science hall may be replaced

If regents give OK, building is estimated to cost $256 million and would be placed where lower campus dorms are now

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    UW-Eau Claire senior Loralei Zimbauer, in purple, gives a tour to prospective students and parents Tuesday on campus. The UW System Board of Regents is looking at the proposed 2019-21 budget this week. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

    Staff photo by Dan Reiland
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UW-Eau Claire plans to replace Phillips Science Hall with a $256 million building that would be constructed on lower campus.

Replacement of the science building, which was built in two parts starting in 1963, is part of the university’s master plan, said Mike Rindo, UW-Eau Claire’s assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations.

“It wasn’t a good candidate for renovation. It doesn’t have the floor-to-ceiling height for modern HVAC work,” Rindo said of the building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. “The functionality of the building isn’t good. It’s past its useful life.”

Rindo said the plan is to tear down Katherine Thomas Hall and Putnam Hall and place the science building on that location. If funding is approved, construction would begin in 2021 and would take two years.

The project — which would include $109 million in its first phase — is included in the capital items that will be presented to the UW System Board of Regents this week as part of the overall budget for state universities.

The regents are expected to vote on the budget request, which calls for $107 million in additional spending in the 2019-21 budget, when they meet Thursday at UW-Madison. The proposal would then be sent to Gov. Scott Walker for consideration in the budget.

Rindo stressed the overall $256 million cost of the building would be spread out over two budget cycles. He is upbeat about the project gaining approval and moving forward.

“It would be roughly a third larger than the existing science building,” Rindo said. “This is our highest priority for our academics. This is really the next logical step. The facilities (now) are not up to par for science and lab work.”

UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer endorsed the UW System plan that calls for an additional $107 million, saying there are parts of it that are particularly good for the school.

Meyer said he likes a proposal that would allow each campus to borrow for projects locally that are paid for by student fees, such as residence halls.

“It would really help us if we can bond for them separately rather than bond through the state,” Meyer said. “Those projects could be launched much quicker.”

UW-Stout is already seeing significant renovations, he added.

“We have three projects being worked on right now,” he said. “Bowman Hall is in the process of being renovated as well as North Hall. North Hall has a companion hall, South Hall. That is on the docket to follow North Hall for renovation.”

Meyer said he understood the reasons behind the tuition freeze in the budget proposal.

“The (UW) System really needs an ongoing investment,” Meyer said. “We understand why the freeze is on — we want to make college affordable. But you can’t freeze funding forever.”

In particular, Meyer said, he would like to see the state increase funding for investing in infrastructure such as science laboratories.

Meyer said he also wants to see modest wage increases for staff.

“I’d like to see that continue,” Meyer said. “That has to continue to keep us competitive.”

 John Behling, an Eau Claire attorney who is president of the Board of Regents, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Contact: chris.vetter@ecpc.com


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