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Archive for Monday, March 31, 2003

Board of Regents tries to keep nonconstruction costs down

March 31, 2003

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Managers of $120 million in bond-financed building projects at three Kansas Board of Regents universities are determined to keep nonconstruction costs of the project below 15 percent, officials say.

That contrasts sharply with the Lawrence school board's $59 million bond plan for school construction and renovation that sets aside 27 percent for those "soft costs."

"You want more of your money to go into your building rather than other things," said Clay Blair, board chairman of the University Research and Development Enhancement Corp.

Blair, former regents chairman, heads up the board providing oversight of the three university projects.

He said putting the squeeze on nonconstruction expenditures would save taxpayers millions of dollars on projects at Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas State University and Wichita State University.

The biomedical research center at the Med Center and the food-safety lab at KSU are under the 15 percent threshold.

The aviation lab project at WSU isn't far enough along to attach a solid percentage, said Allen Wiechert, a former KU facilities director who is working with the research and development board on the university projects.

Scott Morgan, Lawrence school board president, said the district shouldn't be faulted for crafting a conservative financial blueprint to spend $59 million at 15 of the district schools.

"We need to make sure we do what we promised," he said.

The bond includes $43 million for actual construction. The remaining $16 million would cover soft costs, including architecture, engineering and consulting fees. It also would take care of furniture and hardware purchases for the schools.

Within the $16 million, $6.9 million is set aside in a contingency fund for unforeseen expenses.


Morgan said favorable market forces could leave the contingency available for future construction not specified in the bond package.

"It will be used for construction," he said. "God knows there's plenty to do out there."

Blair said a direct comparison between the university bond projects and the school district's bond plans was difficult. The university projects are all new construction, for example, while the school district is proposing significant renovation.

"It's more expensive to get people to manage repair on a building than to build a new building," Blair said.

Voters in the Lawrence district go to the polls April 1 to decide the bond question and elect four school board members.

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