Sod fills site in lieu of science building
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 13:02
On a campus filled with buildings, two trees spring up from an empty site just east of the University Inn. Unfortunately for students, the allotment of funds needed to construct a building here could be just as sparse as the site’s vegetation.
USU is asking legislature for $45 million in order to construct a new biological sciences building on the location, but according to some campus officials, the outlook does not look good.
“It didn’t score real high on the statewide priority list,” said Ben Barrett, director of Facilities Planning, Design and Construction. “It’d be a long shot this year for that project. This is the first year we’ve submitted for that project. Quite often that’s something you kind of have to get in line for.”
While $45 million would help the project, Jim MacMahon, dean of the College of Science, said it would take even more money to fund the building’s construction.
“The legislature doesn’t supply all the money that’s necessary and so we have to get gifts from other people from the outside,” he said. “Regardless of what happens with the legislature, we’ll continue to work and try and find donors to support it.”
Barrett and MacMahon said it is possible USU will get partial funding for the project this year, which will allow them to begin design work. Barrett said the design work alone on a building of this size would take almost a year to complete.
Knowing it was not likely the project would be approved its first year of submission, Barrett said they laid sod and installed an irrigation system in order to make the land available for campus activities, as well as to provide an environmental benefit and save time spraying weeds.
“It could be next year or it could be five years before we get it,” he said. “We just went in and we did the irrigation and restored the cheapest landscape we could, which would be sod. That way it can be used for student events and it won’t look so bad, and when the building gets approved, we’ll do construction.”
MacMahon said the building was necessary, because the building currently in use for the biological science program is decades old. He said teaching is more interactive now and a different kind of lab is needed to do those interactive things.
“It will allow us to increase the quality of the science we do,” he said.
Barrett said in better years, Utah’s legislature spent about $150 million on higher education statewide but has not spent near as much in the past few years.
Lobbyists presented USU’s plan for the project to legislature last week, as well as plan for a $15 million partial renovation of labs in the Biology and Natural Resources building. Campus officials await a decision at the end of the legislative session in March.
“There’s no way to know with the legislature,” MacMahon said.