Construction projects highlight full UA Regents’ meeting
The University of Alaska Board of Regents approved a series of far reaching construction and maintenance projects at its two-day meeting that wrapped up in Fairbanks June 3. The projects include a new sports arena at the University of Alaska Anchorage; student housing at Kenai Peninsula College; extensive continuing repairs to an aging power plant at the University of Alaska Fairbanks; and a long sought-after addition to the student housing and dining complex at the University of Alaska Southeast.
The board also approved two new graduate certificates at UAA (one in children’s mental health and one in career and technical education), a major reorganization of UAA’s growing health program structure and an updated mission statement for UAS.
Two, three-year faculty union contracts were approved: one with the University of Alaska Federation of Teachers, representing 370 faculty, librarians and counselors who primarily serve the community college mission of the UA System; and the other with United Academics, which represents 969 faculty, counselors, librarians, cooperative extension agents and post-doctoral fellows who primarily serve students and conduct research at the larger campuses.
On the construction list, the board approved the Seawolf Sports Arena at UAA, with a new total project cost not to exceed $109 million. Money for the project comes primarily from $15 million the state legislature previously approved, last fall’s voter-approved General Obligation Bond and $34 million from state lawmakers in the FY12 capital budget. The project will come back to the board for schematic design approval.
“This project approval demonstrates strong broad-based support from the regents, the legislature, the community of Anchorage, the Anchorage mayor, and many others,” said UA President Pat Gamble. “The university is anxious to turn dirt on construction and get to the ribbon cutting. We want to bring more people from the community onto our largest campus and let them join our students in enjoying a top-notch sports facility.”
The board also gave other approvals, including:
• Formal project approval for new student housing and academic space at Kenai Peninsula College’s Soldotna campus, at $17.8 million. The project is funded by the GO bond and a FY12 capital appropriation from the legislature.
• Schematic design approval and total project cost increase from $11.4 million to $13 million for the third and final phase of an ongoing renovation of the UAA Science Building. Money for the project comes from the current and next year’s deferred maintenance and renewal and repurposing funds.
• Formal project approval on an effort to extend the life of the aging UAF power plant, not to exceed $40 million. The work would occur in phases over the next five to seven years. Most of the money would come from deferred maintenance funds provided to the university in the state capital budget. Not all the money and work would be needed if plans to replace the entire plant come to fruition before the project’s final phase. Various usable components of the old plant could be incorporated into the new, more efficient plant, which would reduce costs.
• Schematic design approval for the next phase of a critical campus electrical distribution upgrade at UAF, at $13.5 million. Funding for the ongoing project comes from an FY12 capital appropriation.
• Formal project approval for a 60-student addition to Banfield Hall at UAS as well as a student dining facility upgrade. The $8.8 million project is to be funded from three sources---$4 million from an FY12 capital appropriation by the legislature, $4 million from the sale of UA bonds and $800,000 from deferred maintenance funds.
• Formal project approval for a competitive request for proposal (RFP) process for UAF to determine the viability of a public-private partnership for extensive student dining and student housing improvements at the Fairbanks campus. The $850,000 approved is to be funded out of auxiliary receipts.
In other business, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich dropped by the meeting to update the board on various federal issues of interest in higher education. State Rep. Bill Stoltze, who was instrumental in gaining legislative support for UA’s FY12 diverse capital program, addressed the board and received appreciative comments from members.
ACS President and Chief Executive Officer Anand Vadapalli gave the board an update on the company’s $6.8 million gift of connectivity to ACS’ computer backup server space in Oregon. The gift will allow seamless backup and continuity of UA’s critical business functions--such as contracts, payroll, employee and student records, scholarships and financial aid--should a major catastrophe interrupt the UA System’s financial and student data systems, located in Fairbanks.