Budget Delays UWEC Projects

Walker’s plan delays Haas, Governors Hall renovations

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth

UWEC’s Haas Fine Arts Center.
UWEC’s Haas Fine Arts Center.

Several Chippewa Valley construction projects – including two at UW-Eau Claire – won’t get state funding over the next two years if Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed capital budget becomes law. In the $803 million statewide building proposal for 2017-19, which was unveiled in late February, Walker recommended that funding be deferred for two UW-Eau Claire projects: $63.5 million to renovate and add to Haas Fine Arts Center and $19.3 million to add to and renovate Governors Hall, a dorm on upper campus. In addition, Walker recommended deferring $4.4 million in utility work at the Chippewa Valley Correctional Treatment Facility in Chippewa Falls and recommended denying a request for $2 million to build a Western Wisconsin Hmong Cultural Center in Eau Claire.

The State Building Commission is scheduled to vote on the governor’s proposed capital budget in March. State Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, who serves on the commission, criticized Walker’s plan. “This style of delayed budgeting isn’t fiscally or structurally sound,” he said in a press release. “Delays now will mean increased costs for future maintenance, renovation, or new construction. These outdated facilities are inefficient and fail to perform their intended duties.”

When asked for a response to the projects’ delay, UWEC spokesman Mike Rindo referred to a statement issued by UW System President Ray Cross. While thanking the governor for budgeting funds for some repairs and technology upgrades, Cross noted that the system’s budget request was “reasonable” and allowed for a “limited amount of work each year at a steady pace.”

“The longer we delay these critical repairs, the more it ultimately costs students and taxpayers in the end,” Cross said. “We hope to work with the governor and Legislature in the months ahead to help ensure we have adequate and refurbished teaching and living space for our students.”

Renovations to the Haas Center and Governors Hall are both included in UWEC’s 2010-30 Campus Master Plan. Rindo, UWEC’s assistant chancellor for facilities and university relations, SAID numerous parts of the master plan – including the new Davies Center, Centennial Hall, Haymarket Landing, the Confluence Arts Center, and the Garfield Avenue reconstruction – have been funded by the state.

Considering the proposed delay, he said, “We now will need to seriously examine undertaking shorter-term repairs to existing buildings (roofs, plumbing, HVAC, etc.) in order to ensure they are safe and functioning for our students, faculty, and staff.”

Last summer, the university noted that the proposed Haas project would entail building 95,000 square feet and completely remodeling and renovating 12,500 square feet of the 1970 building. “New and renovated spaces include two general assignment classrooms, a ceramics studio, a sculpture studio, a wood shop, rehearsal space for choral and instrumental ensembles, an art gallery and theatrical prop storage,” the university said in a news release last summer. In addition, the project would include work on the building’s exterior, including new roofing and windows plus masonry repairs. At Governors Hall, which was built in 1962, the university wants to build 12,000 square feet and renovate 65,000 square feet. Among other things, the project would include adding a new elevator; replacing all plumbing, mechanical, and electrical systems in the building; and connecting the two towers with an elevator lobbies on each floor that would include new restrooms.

Once it is passed by the State Building Commission, the capital budget must be approved by the state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, by both houses of the Legislature, and signed into law by the governor.