Archive for Thursday, February 11, 1993

PANEL TURNS DOWN KU FUNDING REQUEST

February 11, 1993

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— A legislative committee has passed over requests from Kansas University for $2.7 million to correct significant fire hazards in Allen Fieldhouse and Dyche Hall.

Rep. Phil Kline, R-Overland Park, a member of the Joint Committee on Building Construction, said the committee decided it couldn't support the projects at this time because there wasn't money in the state general fund to pay for them.

"One reason was the governor did not recommend them," he said. "Another major reason was the cost. The general fund is strapped."

KU Chancellor Gene Budig asked Gov. Joan Finney and the Legislature for $1.9 million to build four fire exits on the fieldhouse and $790,000 to match a National Science Foundation grant for a $1.5 million addition to Dyche.

ALLEN WIECHERT, KU's director of facilities planning, said university officials hadn't decided what to do if the state doesn't finance the projects.

Wiechert said he assumed the buildings would remain open.

"Both of those buildings have been in operation under those conditions for many, many years," he said.

The Kansas Fire Marshal's office informed KU in 1992 that Allen Fieldhouse and Dyche Hall had major fire-safety problems.

"Allen Fieldhouse presents one of the most significant life-loss potentials in Kansas when fully occupied," the fire marshal's report said.

The fieldhouse has improper exits for its capacity, insufficient water supply and building access for fire trucks, inadequate fire sprinkler protection and no automatic fire-detection system, the fire marshal said.

BUDIG SAID the university would be able to reallocate money from its existing budget to take care of all safety shortcomings except for the fire exits.

Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, said it was hard to convince legislators of the need to correct safety hazards in buildings on state university property.

"It's not very glamorous to think about putting fire exits on Allen but it needs to be done," she said.

The fire marshal's report said a large number of specimens in Dyche Hall's Museum of Natural History collection were stored in ethyl alcohol, a highly flammable liquid.

The alcohol was a danger to KU employees working in Dyche and the 120,000 people who visit the museum annually, the fire marshal reported.

THE SOLUTION proposed by KU would be construction of an addition to the west side of Dyche where hazardous specimens could be stored safely.

Philip Humphrey, director of Dyche Hall, has thought about the implications of Finney and the Legislature not funding Dyche this session.

"Frankly, the time frame is so short there is a very real likelihood that if the Legislature does not appropriate the funds we could lose the grant," Humphrey said.

Rep. Betty Jo Charlton, D-Lawrence, said the Legislature might find money for Dyche Hall, since the NSF indicated it would provide $790,000 for the project if that amount was matched by KU.

"We don't want to risk losing the match," she said.

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