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State budget delays renovations to three UW-River Falls buildings

April 9, 2009

On March 16, Gov. Jim Doyle released the recommended 2009-11 Capital Budget that will involve the appraised renovation of 31 projects within the UW System over the next two years, except UW-River Falls.

According to Doyle’s budget, UW-River Falls received approval for the reconstruction of Hagestad Hall, South Fork Suites and Ramer Field, but any final renovations will not be complete until the end of 2010.

According to WTMJ News Radio, western Wisconsin lawmakers and University officials have complained the plan delays academic buildings on UWRF for at least two years, preparing any renovation for the 2011-13 budget.

One UWRF student feels the same way.

“I think it shows that the priority of the UWRF campus is lower than the other campuses,” UWRF student Kelsey Granger said. “I think that they should be put on an equal playing field when it comes to getting updates and renovations.”

Within the UW System, officials believe that certain changes need to be completed first in comparison to others.

“Our strategic plan focuses on producing more college graduates for Wisconsin’s knowledge-based economy, and stimulating business and community growth through academic research and development” Mark J. Bradley, UW System Board of Regents president, said in a press release. “To make that plan a reality, we need to invest in the facilities that will nurture record numbers of UW students and support that expanded research capability.”

The UWRF campus will have to wait for any visual changes, yet the financial means needed for these modifications are here.

According to the Doyle’s budget, the renovations to Hagestad Hall, Ramer Field and South Fork Suites will cost approximately $12.2 million.

As UWRF students are being hit with an increase in tuition, student fees and classroom size, the expensive alterations caused confusion for one UWRF freshman.

“It doesn’t make sense. If they are trying to cut spending, then wouldn’t [the proposed projects] just add to it?” Rebecca Clafin, UWRF student, asked. “So, what I want to know is where is the money for the renovations coming from.”

Interim Chancellor Connie Foster has confronted the financial issue and reassured UWRF students.

“There is a timeline factor that students need to be aware of. Students voted for the approval of these projects, which were far ahead of the actual construction,” Foster said. “The voting took place years ago and the University has been saving money for [the changes].”

The recent budget cut affected the auxiliary funds— the finances that are reserved for future construction projects on campus.

“A certain percentage is going to be given back. I don’t know how that will affect things, but there will be some adjusting,” Foster said.

Other than UWRF, only one other campus’ future construction is at the bottom of the list. Other UW campuses will see dramatic changes within the next year.

According to a March 31 article in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, the losers under the plan include UW-Eau Claire and UWRF. The winners in Doyle’s plan include a major expansion at UW-Milwaukee and a new energy and medical research buildings at UW-Madison. 

The approval of the future changes to the selected facilities on campus are supported by Doyle because of the benefits they provide to students.

According to Doyle’s budget, Hagestad Hall is used as temporary office and classroom space but does not meet the requirements of the proposed program. The future project will create a central, one-stop enrollment services center including admissions, financial assistance, registrar and graduate admissions.

The new Ramer Field will include a pro shop, concessions and a ticket booth beneath the bleachers. The existing press box will be replaced with a new combination press box/VIP suite complex. Also the existing concession stand will be converted into an officials’ locker room, the turf will be replaced with an artificial playing surface and existing field light are also in the plans to be replaced. 

“The high school uses the Ramer Field too. So, they need to help pay for it as well,” Claflin said.

According to Doyle’s budget, the South Fork Suites project will include a 240-bed addition, with shared common areas and approximately four single bedrooms and eight double bedrooms within 12 resident clusters.

The project will bridge the predominant dormitory-style housing and suite-style housing, and is targeted for second-year students.

The addition to student living is needed, but one UWRF student said he feels this may not be the solution.

“A new dorm or even two dorms seem more logical because then there would be less extended housing and I’m sure people like living with only one person more than four,” UWRF student Tyler Czuba, said.

Three projects are on the way to the planning and design stage, yet one project that was proposed but has not been approved is the Health and Human Performance building.

“The enumeration of a new HHP building at UWRF has been recommended by the Board of Regents for the past three biennium, yet enumeration continues to be delayed by the Building Commissions,” Blake Fry, special assistant to the chancellor, said in the Joint Finance Committee Public Hearing Testimony.

“Meanwhile, the facility the HHP building will replace is literally crumbling.”