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UA building renovations back on track

Citizen Staff Writer



State universities will be able to make good on promises to address millions of dollars in campus safety issues now that the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Capital Review has given its blessing to nearly $168 million in bond sales.

The University of Arizona’s portion is $68.5 million and includes dozens of renovations in 10 categories across the campus.

The Legislature authorized $1 billion in projects at UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University last summer under a university-designed plan called the Stimulus Plan for Economic and Educational Development, or SPEED.

Negotiations with state leaders during January’s budget fix for the 2009 state budget resulted in the amount of SPEED financing being reduced to $800 million. But in a trade, the JCCR reviewed the first phase of $167.7 million first brought to them in October.

The review was done Feb. 12, according to Lorenzo Martinez, assistant executive director for capital resources for the Arizona Board of Regents.

“This means that we can begin activities related to those projects at each university,” Martinez said. “Right now we are anticipating that the universities will issue bonds in the May-June time frame.”

SPEED projects will be financed through bond sales paid back primarily through Arizona Lottery proceeds and be completed in three phases.

By law, every state capital project exceeding $250,000 is reviewed by the JCCR.

Although the committee does not have the authority to approve or halt projects, it can essentially stall projects indefinitely by refusing to give a review, which the committee did when the universities first asked for review in October.

Regents will be approving a revised expenditure plan from each university in regard to the overall reduction in SPEED financing at their meeting next week in Tempe.

That reduction to $800 million means UA’s original $170 million allocation will be cut to $136 million, according to board documents. Because of that, $12 million in renovations to Centennial Hall have been eliminated from UA’s SPEED project plan that it will present to regents next week.

University officials hope money from the recently passed federal stimulus package might fund renovations to the building, which was constructed in 1936. Proposed renovations include improvements to seating, sight lines and acoustics, and more restrooms.

Funding for the second phase of UA’s Environmental and Natural Resources building will be reduced from $90 million to $68 million.

Those two projects are slated to start next year.

Russell Pearce, former chairman of the JCCR, said in October the reason he didn’t give a review to the SPEED projects then was because lottery revenues were down. The SPEED bonds will be paid back in an 80-20 split between lottery revenues and university funding.

Because of incentives put in the lottery program in late fall to increase participation, and advertising, lottery revenues are about $7 million above last year at this time, according to Martinez.

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