July 13, 2009

Capital construction plan benefits University

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale will receive more than $85.8 million in construction funds after Gov. Pat Quinn today (July 13) signed a statewide capital construction plan into law.

The measure includes funding for the long-awaited Transportation Education Center that will be built at the Southern Illinois Airport; planning and design for renovation and additions to the Communications Building; completion of the sixth and seventh floors of Morris Library and moving books and moveable shelving from McLafferty Annex; and deferred maintenance projects on the Carbondale campus and at the School of Medicine in Springfield.

“Gov. Quinn’s signature on the capital construction plan will lead to a much-needed economic shot in the arm for our region,” Chancellor Samuel Goldman said. “The Southern Illinois University Carbondale projects will create a significant number of construction jobs. These projects, which include much-needed new facilities along with improvements to existing ones, will enhance the education and services we provide not only to our students, but to our communities.”

Philip S. Gatton, director of Plant and Service Operations, said the impact the funding will have on campus will surprise people.

“The capital bill is going to have a huge effect on campus facilities,” he said. “This will be a boon for SIUC. It will reduce a significant amount of the deferred maintenance backlog and provide new and improved classrooms and labs for our students.”

The estimated 249,016-square-foot Transportation Education Center will house the aviation and automotive technology programs. The project can be bid in about two months following the release of funds. Construction is expected to take about two years.

The University will receive $56,718,800 from the capital bill for the Transportation Education Center. The Illinois Capital Development Board will cover the remainder of the total $62,830,800 project cost as part of the Leadership in Energy and Energy Design, or LEEDS, certification, Gatton said.

The project is a “wonderful opportunity for students to be taught in the new facilities,” Gatton said. The dilapidated World War II-era buildings now used by automotive technology on the Carterville campus will be demolished, which in turn will further reduce deferred maintenance costs, Gatton said. The May 8 storm blew a couple of those structures down, he noted.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Terry A. Owens, interim dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. “This is something we’ve been working on for several years.”

Previous CASA deans Elaine Vittelo and Paul D. Sarvela were also very involved in the project, Owens said. David A. NewMyer, chair of the Department of Aviation Management and Flight, and Jack S. Greer, chair of the Department of Automotive Technologies, “have been so stalwart and steadfast in getting this approved,” Owens said.

“It’s going to make a fantastic contribution, especially to the automotive technology program -- for them to be able to move into a state-of-the-art facility that signifies their importance in the automotive education we provide,” Owens said. “The aviation flight and aviation technology programs have national reputations as well, and it’s going to improve their facilities.”

The new center will help with enrollment, Owens said.

The University will also receive $4.255 million for planning and design of an approximately 60,000-square-foot addition to the Communications Building. The addition will provide new classroom space, along with upgrades and technology enhancements to the building originally built in 1964. The current proposal is for additions on the south, north and west sides of the building, Gatton said.

He anticipates it will take 12 to 16 months to select an architect and complete design work. The next step is to seek construction funds about this time next year, Gatton said. The total project estimate is just over $70 million.

Dean Gary P. Kolb said the project is not only positive for the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, but also for the Department of Theater and Department of Speech Communication, which also occupy the building. Those departments are part of the College of Liberal Arts.

“For our college, particularly, this is going to be extraordinarily significant,” he said. “It’s a change to our physical plant from one century into the next one.”

Kolb noted the dramatic change in equipment and power requirements in the last four decades. Along with more classrooms, the addition will feature fully equipped and flexible auditorium space, laboratory rooms and digital post-production suites.

“To build a space from the ground up and have it specifically designed to accommodate the 21st Century equipment we have now will be a real boon for us. It allows us to update our facilities to state of the art, and that will serve the students well,” Kolb said. “It will help us in recruiting, teaching our classes, and maintaining the reputation for excellence that our college has. I think those things are critical for us at this point in time. I hope this helps the college to maintain its reputation and enhance and build on that.”

Several architectural firms that have worked on communications-related projects at other universities have contacted him, Kolb said. The process will include investigation and talking with faculty at other universities about what worked in their plans and what they would now change if they could, he said.

The University will receive $17,564,400 to finish construction of the sixth and seventh floors in Morris Library, move books from McLafferty Annex and purchase high-density shelving.

Gatton estimates it will take a year to finish construction on the library’s sixth and seventh floors, and six to eight months to move the books.

The University also will receive $7,312,500 for deferred maintenance projects. About 10 percent of that amount goes for work at the School of Medicine in Springfield, Gatton said. Specific projects on the Carbondale campus are not finalized but could include replacing fire alarms at the School of Law and Faner Hall, work on campus roofs, water line replacements in older parts of the campus, electrical feeder projects, and greenhouse repairs. Gatton said.