Some construction at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has come to a halt due to state budget woes, even though the funds were allocated years ago.
The long-running project to expand and renovate SIUE’s science building was finally entering its last stages. It took more than 10 years to get the $72 million in construction funds awarded from the state, and finally, construction began on the new Science West building in 2009. It opened for classes in the fall of 2013, as renovations began on the old science building, now known as Science East.
Most science departments and classes moved out of the old building to allow for renovations, stationed in temporary quarters around the campus. The Center for STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) Research, for example, currently occupies quarters adjacent to the pool in the Vadalabene Center for athletics.
But under state law, projects funded by the legislature’s allocations are managed by the state Capital Development Board, not by the agency receiving the new building, according to Rich Walker, vice chancellor for administration.
With the state’s current budget crisis, most projects are stopped — including the $23.9 million renovations to Science East. Walker said even though the funds were approved more than six years ago and the appropriations authorized, the remaining funds need to be re-appropriated each year of a multi-year project.
“Normally it’s a routine process,” Walker said. “The General Assembly focuses on new expenditures and commitments. I’ve never seen them go back and look at a project that’s already been appropriated.”
In fact, the renovations at Science East are currently about 25 percent completed, Walker said. But most construction was set to stop as of July 1 due to the state’s budget problems.
This is a problem for SIUE, Walker said, because there are two 200-seat auditoriums in Science East. One is currently being renovated, and the other is slated for renovation next summer. While the rest of the building is shut down for the renovations, those auditoriums have remained in use during the fall and spring semesters, due to a shortage of large lecture-hall space in other buildings on campus.
“I have no place on campus to move 20 classes for 200-plus students,” Walker said. “The auditorium has to be finished by August. Without (the auditoriums), I’ve got 3,000 students who will not be able to take their classes, which then can delay their graduations. That’s why this is a priority for the university.”
Walker said he has been working with the Capital Development Board, and it has assured him that it will try to keep the renovations going on the auditorium while stopping work on the other wings.
Capital Development Board representatives could not be reached for comment.
Still, each day the project is delayed is another day later for final completion of the massive project. It is slated to be completed by August 2016, in time for the fall semester, according to Walker.
The science building project is the only one on campus funded by state money. The other construction projects proceeding this summer were funded through private donations, university budgets or student fees, and thus are not affected by the budget crisis, Walker said.
“We don’t have as many projects as we’ve had over the last decade, but those that we have aren’t being delayed,” he said.
Those projects include:
▪ Waterproofing of exterior sheathing system at Vadalabene Center, $3.3 million funded through facilities fees and university funds, construction to continue into early 2016
▪ Expansion of student weight room in Vadalabene Center, $2.6 million funded through fitness center fees and reserve accounts, construction to continue into 2016
▪ Resurfacing Circle Drive, $1.2 million from university funds, to be completed by fall semester
▪ Upgrading the water pumping station for the campus water supply, $800,000 from university funds, nearly complete
▪ Dental school laboratory renovations, replacing most infrastructure, $600,000 from operations fund and equipment fees, to be completed by fall semester
▪ New outdoor tornado sirens at the Edwardsville, Alton and East St. Louis campuses, $460,000 from university funds, beginning construction
▪ Replacing inoperative sculpture furnaces in the art and design building, $225,00 from university funds, to be completed by fall semester
Projects in the design phase include the first whole-building renewals of Founders and Alumni halls, two of the most heavily-trafficked classroom buildings. The $21 million renovation will include upgrades of the life safety systems, installing seismic upgrades, replacing most electrical and mechanical systems and other upgrades. The project, which is in the design phase, will be funded through the university’s facilities fees and is set to be phased in over several years following completion of the science building project.
Other projects in the design or bid phase include:
▪ Upgrading the 2,660-acre campus electrical system, $3.5 million from facilities fees
▪ Expanding the engineering student workshop space, $3.9 million from university and donation funds
▪ Replacing failing glass-block windows in the art and design building, $3.32 million from facilities fees
▪ Renovate a University Park building for new international student programs, $3 million from university funds
▪ An on-campus golf driving range for the golf teams, $600,000 from donated funds
▪ A new water line to the Whiteside Road water tower, $250,000 from water tower cell antennae lease funds
▪ Replace the pedestrian bridge at Morris Trail, $200,000 from university funds
▪ Convert a former automobile repair shop to a construction trades training area for Southwestern Illinois College, $160,000 in SWIC funds
▪ New field seating at Simmons Baseball Stadium’s alumni deck, $160,000 in donations and athletics fee funds
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at email@example.com or 618-239-2507.