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Construction projects still on at state’s universities

Construction projects at Mississippi’s public universities have not fallen victim to the state’s slumping tax revenues of the past few years. Major building projects and maintenance projects such as roofing repairs continue at campuses around the Magnolia State.

Mississippi State University architect Tim Muzzi points out that funding sources for construction projects include state funds, private donations, Educational Building Corporation (EBC) bonds and federal funds. “Our need for funds to repair and renovate our existing facilities has not stopped,” he said. “As the state encounters budget woes so do we. The state budget requires us to look to EBC bonds or private funding.”

Renovations were recently completed for MSU four buildings using a variety of funds. Projects underway include a $2.8-million renovation to Middleton Hall with state funds; university funds for a new $3.8-million office for the Delta Research and Extension Center that is scheduled for completion in Jan. 2012; and $7 million in federal funds for an MSU Science and Technology Center at Stennis Space Center. Private funds are being used to finance a new basketball practice facility and university funds for renovations to the Spencer Track facility. Plans for a new parking garage, a south campus entrance road and a north Research Park road are on the drawing board.

Things are also happening at Delta State University in Cleveland where several roofing projects are in design or construction, along with an upgrade of the campus electrical and drainage systems and fire suppression in residence halls.

“State bond bill funding actually increased over the last two years, and we expect an increase next year, fiscal year 2012,” said Greg Redlin, vice president for finance and administration at Delta State University. “The Caylor White Walters Building, our science and math facility, is in the second phase of a $20-million renovation. Future projects include a renovation of our food service facilities and Ward Hall.”

At the University of Mississippi in Oxford, current campus projects include a $12-million research building, $11-million Center for Manufacturing Excellence, $3.2-million in renovations and an addition to Carrier Hall, a $1-million wastewater treatment facility and a $500,000 horticultural building. An $8-million pharmacy practice building is underway at the University Medical School’s Jackson campus.

“Approximately 10 miscellaneous projects under $100,000 relating to mechanical, elevators, fire protection and general construction are also underway at this time,” said Ian Banner, university architect. “There are other projects in conceptual design or pre-planning that will surface in the next six to twelve months. Many of these projects are being done with federal funding, so the state budget has not had much impact on them.”

A $5.5-million renovation for classroom space and general construction for the old law school, Lamar Hall, is among several Oxford projects scheduled to begin soon.

Officials with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach are excited that $10 million has been approved by the Institutions of Higher Learning to construct a 36,000-square-foot science building. The three-story, state-of-the art facility will house the College of Science and Technology with teaching laboratories, research space, 80-seat instructional classroom, faculty offices and the associate dean’s office. Bidding for construction will be held this spring allowing construction to begin this summer. It is expected to be occupied by early 2012.

“The approval of this construction project will allow the university to continue growing and meeting the needs of our students,” said Dr. Frances Lucas, vice president and campus executive officer for USM Gulf Coast.

Elsewhere on the Long Beach campus, the university continues its efforts to repair and rebuild buildings damaged by Hurricane Katrina. With the majority of the campus buildings left in ruins, the university relocated operations to the former Garden Park Hospital in Gulfport for two years. As buildings were repaired, the university returned to the Long Beach location on U.S. 90.

The three historical buildings on the front of the campus received the most damage and have not been repaired. With a reallocation of university funds, repairs on one of the buildings started last fall. The university is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to secure funding for renovations and repairs for the other buildings.


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About Lynn Lofton