Sep 292008
 
Authors: Madeline Novey

The renovation of the Clark building C-wing is delayed after Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter temporarily froze state-funded capital construction at Colorado higher education campuses Thursday.

University officials said the freeze, a precautionary decision made by the governor in response to the current economic crisis, affected only the Clark renovation construction project.

Other campus construction projects, supported largely by the sale of university bonds, the student facilities fee and private donations, will not be affected.

“We are probably the least impacted of any school in the state as far as projects,” said Brian Chase, director of Facilities Management. “We are very lucky.”

Chase said that only $2 million of the $6 million in state contributions to the project are frozen. The remaining $4 million in state-funded money invested in the project cannot be withdrawn by the state.

The total cost of the renovations is $8 million. When a student facilities fee of $2 million was allotted to the project, the state added to the contribution and gave CSU $6 million.

The heating and ventilation, air conditioning and electrical systems in the C-wing were to be upgraded using the state money, Chase said.

“We are continuing with the design and starting with the rest of the construction this summer,” Chase said. “As far as the changes that students will see, renovations to the classrooms and such will continue as planned.”

CSU spokesperson Brad Bohlander said that the state “significantly dropped their funding to higher education across the board” six years ago, and university officials were not surprised by the decision.

“It’s certainly understandable, looking at the world’s economic situation at this time,” Bohlander said.

Concerning the university’s response to future cuts in state funding, Bohlander said, “We are always keeping an eye on the financial situation and are prepared to act accordingly.”

“All the projects that [students] see on the campus will move forward as planned,” Bohlander said. He said that the change will not cause great upset, because students and the administration have taken “responsibility of [the] university.”

“The students of CSU, in particular, deserve recognition for their extraordinary leadership in funding student-focused building projects through the fee they approved several years ago,” said CSU President Larry Penley in an e-mail sent to students Friday.

On a video recording of his speech from http://cbs4denver.com, Ritter said he “thought the Colorado economy was just fine” until he heard presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama address the growing national economic crisis on Wednesday.

“We believe we must be prudent, and we must be thoughtful in our planning,” Ritter said. “We must take steps now to ensure we have options should state revenues begin to dramatically decline.”

Financial experts at CSU said they agreed with Ritter’s justifications.

“Forward-looking action was probably the best decision that the governor’s office could have made,” said Vickie Bajtelsmit, department chair and professor of finance in the Finance and Real Estate department in the College of Business. “They’re pretty good at estimating the current economic state, and making cuts ahead of time is a better way of anticipating a budget shortfall.”

In light of the situation, Chase said that the construction projects on campus, despite the growing national economic crisis, will help to foster positive development of the local economy.

“The good part is, we’re creating a lot of jobs here in Fort Collins because of the construction projects,” Chase said. “It’s a real boost to the economy of Fort Collins.”

Staff writer Madeline Novey can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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