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Wednesday, June 19,2013

OU has heavy construction schedule in 2014

By David DeWitt

Ohio University has six capital projects lined up to launch in fiscal year 2014, including breaking ground on a new natural gas-burning power plant, renovations to several Athens campus buildings, and the construction of new buildings in Dublin, Ohio, and Cleveland.

Associate Vice President for Facilities Harry Wyatt went over the projects during a conference call with reporters last Thursday afternoon.

The capital plan update is scheduled to be presented to the OU Board of Trustees on Friday. Wyatt said that the plan will be one of the main focuses of the Trustees' resource committee during the meeting.

In November 2011, he said, the Trustees approved a six-year capital plan, with the university committing to provide updates annually on projects with significant expenditures or that were being launched.

The first project Wyatt discussed was the Lausche Heating Plant replacement facility that comes in with a $70 million price tag. This project is being financed with university debt, Wyatt said.

Unlike the existing plant, the new facility will run on natural gas instead of coal. The facility will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and come into compliance with expected new federal environmental regulations.

The next project, he said, is a $28.3 million two-year energy performance contract that he said is about halfway complete.

"It's making a significant impact on campus, everything from lighting improvements to HVAC improvements," he said.

Next up, he said, is the university's new indoor multi-purpose recreational and athletic facility that is being constructed between Peden Stadium and the Ping Center.

This $10.5 million facility is intended for instructional, athletic and recreational uses, including an indoor practice area for the athletics department. It will be big enough to include an entire football field with a four-land track around it.

That project is underway, and Wyatt predicted it will be finished relatively quickly.

"The site is being prepared for that," he said. "The construction will start in the upcoming fiscal year, and it will be a rather short construction period. It will be finished by the beginning of next fiscal year."

The Osteopathic Heritage Foundation has facility renovations underway on two extension campuses, Wyatt noted, as well as in Athens.

OU is conducting a $9.8 million renovation and rehabilitation of an existing university-owned property with three buildings in Dublin outside of Columbus. The new facilities will be used by the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine as instructional space, providing the same program as on the main campus.

"We believe in the next year we will have other health sciences programs, perhaps even a physicians assistant program in Dublin in a facility there," he said.

In Cleveland, meanwhile, the foundation will enter the design phase of a $4.5 million renovation and rehabilitation of leased space in a building owned by the Cleveland Clinic for use by the Heritage College. It also will be for instructional space and providing the same program as on the main campus.

In Athens, Wyatt put a $1.5 million price tag on renovations for OU-HCOM. The board materials also give a $3 million figure for programming and preliminary design for the college's diabetes and neuromuscular clinical research programs.

Wyatt said that the new Scripps College of Communication at the site of the old Baker Center on East Union Street is nearing completion. He said the 2014 capital plan launches the $17 million second phase of that project, which will move remaining departments in the Communication College from around campus into that building.

The university will be renovating Lindley Hall on College Green, with a partial building renovation to the currently empty building for use as academic "swing space," according to board materials. The scope of the $2.5 million worth of work "is limited to improved heating/cooling systems, plus life safety and accessibility improvements," the document stated. The primary use there will be for office space, it concluded.

Tupper Hall will see a substantial $7 million building renovation to upgrade that also currently vacant building for classroom space, Wyatt said.

Finally, the university aims to complete a $4.1 million renovation and addition to McCracken Hall for use by the Patton College of Education.

Wyatt said that the university expects to move into the design phase on the McCracken facility.

Other items of note, Wyatt said, include planning for renovations to Siegfried Hall, as well as undertaking a master plan for The Ridges property, the site of the old Athens Lunatic Asylum and its grounds.

An expansion of the College of Business into the neighboring computer services building is being planned, Wyatt said, as well as a study on a multi-phase corrosion center expansion.

All told, Wyatt cited about $252 million in university debt involved in the various projects in the 2014 annual capital plan. He said the university is counting on another round of capital state appropriations in the next biennial budget, which he said it will use for deferred maintenance projects.

He said the university also leverages gift and grant funding.

There are significant gifts involved in the athletics multi-purpose project, the McCracken Hall renovation, the Communication College building, and others.

Asked how the university pays off all this debt, Wyatt said the university uses various strategies.

For instance, he said, gifts can be leveraged in such a way sometimes that they can be used to pay off debt. In other cases, there are dues in particular colleges that help pay off debt.

"In every situation, the debt stream is carefully analyzed and carefully committed to before the project is launched," he said.

Asked if tuition increases relate to paying off the debt, university officials were unable to provide a clear answer.

Christine Sheets, assistant vice president for capital and facilities planning, said that when it comes to the Housing Development Plan, the university uses cash investments all from room fees.

"So we don't get any other money from the institution; it's all from our own revenue," she said.


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They couldn't proved a clear answer on the tuition increases because that means that they are using OUR tuition to pay for ALL of these "renovations" when it would be better used to pay for more faculty or to pay the faculty more.