Continuing construction: UAF tries to call legislature's funding bluff

Elika Roohi/Sun Star Editor-in-Chief
April 9, 2013

Both UAA and UAF announced plans to build engineering buildings on their respective campuses earlier this year.  The groundbreaking for the new building at UAF occurred on Mar. 30, the section of road behind Duckering and Bunnell was shut down and the East Bunnell parking lot was closed last week.  Construction is set to begin soon, except–and here’s the thing–UAF doesn’t have the money for the building.

UAF’s engineering building will cost $108.5 million to complete.  While the university has secured some of the funds, they were relying on funding from the legislature to pay for the rest of the project.  The Senate Finance Committee released their budget last Thursday, which did not include money for the engineering buildings at UAF or UAA.  Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said there wasn’t room in the $2 billion budget for the partially funded engineering building, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

UAF intends for the new building to accommodate their rapidly expanding engineering college.  The building will cover 120,000 square feet and add 40 new laboratories among other facilities, according to the UAF College of Engineering and Mines website.

You know, if it happens.

“It’s not over ’till it’s over,” said Chancellor Brian Rogers, according to the News-Miner.  And generally, that seems to be the approach the university is adopting.

The current plan is to continue construction on the building until the money runs out, which will probably be by the end of the year, according to an University of Alaska email update on Apr. 3.  Administration at UAF hopes the continuing construction will put pressure on the legislature to fund the project, according to project manager Cameron Wohlford.  The building is tentatively scheduled to open in the fall of 2015.

As an average, tuition-paying student at UAF, I have to say that this sounds like a crazy plan.  Granted I don’t play in politics, I’m not an engineering student vying for lab time and I’m skeptical of pretty much all construction ideas put forth by the administration at this school, but this just seems like a bad reason to close down that stretch of road for what will probably turn into an indefinite amount of time.

This legislature has been reluctant to do almost anything useful, particularly fund education, and we’re going to attempt to force their bluff with a half-way constructed building?  Umm, OK.  I mean, millions of dollars could come through in an amended capital budget at the very last minute.  The university has until April 15 until things are set in stone, so I guess we’ll see.

And if UAF doesn’t get any funding from this legislative session, we can always ask again next year.  Delaying funding will just increase the cost of the project, according to Chancellor Rogers.

It would be nice to see UAF spend money on, say, improving academic advising at the university–something that would probably help the graduation rate.  Or renovating some of the dorms.  For example, Wickersham Hall, which experienced some spontaneous combustion during the recent power outage, or Moore Hall, which is literally falling down to the point that the building is leaning so much that some of the windows have shattered from the pressure.

In the meantime, I guess UAF will start a project that will inevitably turn into one more halfway constructed thing around campus next year.  Speaking as a Cutler resident who didn’t have access to a parking lot until well into the fall semester due to construction, these stalled projects actually affect our lives.

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1 Response

  1. Christopher L. Young says:

    Do I get to start construction of a house, knowing full well that I do not have the funds to finish said house, and blame the bank when they deny me the rest of the money I actually require because the current underwriter are hostile to urban development?

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