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CWU Project to Help Local Economy

Central Washington University’s Science I building will finally get its other half thanks to $61 million in state capital funding approved by the Legislature, according to an article in the Daily Record.

The bulk of the state’s $77 million, two-year capital budget for CWU will go toward the construction of Science Phase II, the university’s long-sought state-of-the-art science facility.

The new building completes a project launched more than 15 years ago. Central completed construction on Science Phase I in 1998, leaving the rest for construction as a budgeting compromise.

The new building, expected to open by January 2015, will house the school’s departments of physics and geological sciences and the Center of Excellence in Science and Math Education.

“This is great for students and faculty. It’s great for the local economy. It produces people in high-demand and science fields, and that’s great for the state economy,” CWU’s Public Affairs Director Linda Schactler said. “This is a good thing in every way.”

Classes for the three programs have been scattered around different campus buildings, some built before the Truman administration. The school’s popular physics program had to cap enrollment.

With award-winning professors and opportunities to do research as an undergrad, word is getting out about the quality of science programs offered at Central, Schactler said.

The first step of the building process will be finishing designs and planning a timeline for the facility, as well as submitting the project for State Environmental Policy Act review.

The university expects to award a construction contract by January 2014.

The building will sit in the parking lot next to the Japanese Garden, joining Science I and Dean Hall in the southwest quarter of campus.

It will be one piece of the school’s planned “science neighborhood,” with all the science programs and buildings on campus.

Other CWU projects

The capital budget also includes $7 million for minor works projects, $6 million for utilities work, and $2.4 million for building maintenance.

“We were really concerned, sweating bullets, that we would not get the infrastructure upgrade to go with it,” she said.

The school needs to go back through its list of projects, moving the most pressing repair and maintenance needs to the top, she said, but they’ll include everything from roofing to balustrades to flooring.

As part of that minor works funding, the state capital budget mentions $1.9 million for the Chimpanzee Human Communication Institute building.

CWU was looking at building improvements to incorporate more chimpanzees before Friends of Washoe decided to move the two aging chimps in the program to Canada.

Schactler said while minor works capital requests list potential specific items, the minor works fund is really a catch-all for remodeling or emergent repair needs.

The school will assess CHCI’s repair needs and how it might be repurposed or remodeled after it no longer houses chimpanzees.

“It won’t be CHCI anymore, but it will still be a state building that can be used, and will be used,” she said.

Lobbying effort

The school has been working with retired faculty, downtown businesses, the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce, students and alumni to lobby the Legislature for the science building.

Schactler said alumni wrote in from as far away as Qatar to voice support.

Ellensburg City Manager Ted Barkley said the city had been lobbying as well.

CWU’s capital budget is no surprise, he said, considering Science II showed up in about every proposed capital budget this cycle, though there was a period when whether there would be a capital budget at all was up in the air.

City operations tend to work smoother, financially, as long as there’s at least one big construction project going on at CWU, he said, especially since residential construction slowed.

If a $60 million project brought in $40 million in sales tax revenue from construction, that likely would generate $14,000 to $15,000 a month for the city’s general fund, which pays for basic services, he said.

“Each time a project like this comes along it really, truly makes a difference to us,” he said.


Article by Andy Materesse

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