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Now that the Legislature has approved funds to repair universities, Kansas University Medical Center officials say they can get to work on some major projects.
"We are certainly going to make good use of the resources provided to us," said Edward Phillips, vice chancellor for administration at KUMC.
Phillips said the top priority project at the Kansas City, Kan., campus is upgrading the Applegate Energy Center, which provides utility services to health care and research laboratory areas throughout the campus.
The cost is expected to be in the $10 million range.
In wrapping up the 2007 legislative session, lawmakers approved a five-year plan to increase funds for repairs and deferred maintenance at higher education institutions.
The plan includes $90 million for state universities; $100 million in state-issued loans for projects at community colleges, technical schools and Washburn University; and $62.5 million in tax credits to lure $120 million in private donations that would be available to all state higher education institutions.
The proposal doesn't get close to resolving what universities said was a $663 million backlog of "mission critical" projects. That backlog includes $181 million worth of repairs at KU and $72 million at KUMC.
Higher education officials say the repair costs have grown because the state hasn't provided enough funding for maintenance, and infrastructure is aging. The average age of a building at KU-Lawrence is 47; at Kansas State, it's 57.
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said he wasn't satisfied with the new funding package, but called it a start.
"The plan we passed will probably get them by the next couple of years, but long-term we can't allow this to happen again," Morris said. "We would never tolerate the conditions that we find at the universities in our K through 12 system."
Phillips, however, said just having a plan in place helps.
"Now we have some level of confidence and a revenue stream that gives us the ability to address most serious deferred maintenance problems," he said.
Phillips said the school will soon start the search for an architectural and engineering firm to handle the project.
At KU-Lawrence, the top priority is repairing utility tunnels that route steam and condensate piping to approximately 50 buildings, in addition to electrical and communication cable systems.
"We have these 100-year-old hand-dug utility tunnels. If one of those were to collapse, that would be a major catastrophe for us," said Lynn Bretz, director of university communications.
The cost will be about $9 million.
"Regardless of our allocation from this new bill, we will be proceeding with utility tunnel replacement," she said. "The more funds available, the sooner we will be able to get that done."
With passage of the five-year plan, the staffs at the higher education institutions will submit to the Kansas Board of Regents their priority projects. The board will formally adopt a project list at its June meeting.
- Staff writer Scott Rothschild can be reached at (785) 354-4222.