WMU News

WMU seeks approval to plan projects

Oct. 31, 1997

KALAMAZOO -- Officials at Western Michigan University have identified the renovation and expansion of its engineering facilities and a new student services building as top priorities in this year's request for capital outlay funds.

State funds totaling $37.5 million already have been authorized by the Legislature and approved by the governor. The two projects themselves, however, still must be approved. Their total cost is $50 million, with the University providing $12.5 million of the cost.

The request also includes several other projects that will go to the state Department of Management and Budget for consideration.

"Except for funds already authorized, this request represents an annual 'wish list' of projects that the University would like to begin," said Robert M. Beam, vice president for business and finance. "It allows us to set priorities and plan for the continued development and maintenance of the campus."

Plans call for the construction of a new research and teaching laboratory wing to Kohrman Hall for the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "Studies indicate that building new laboratories and specialized classrooms is more efficient and economical than renovating the existing building for these technology-intensive programs," Beam said.

A second phase would renovate vacated space in Kohrman Hall to house the Department of Art and programs in industrial arts, interior design and applied sciences. "These programs are currently fragmented in many buildings across the campus," he explained. "The plan calls for sharing generic classrooms, lecture halls and a new computer laboratory."

A new student services building would consolidate several existing functions that serve students directly. They include such units as admissions and orientation; student financial aid and scholarships; residence hall services; customer account services; and the registrar's office, including registration and records. The building's location is being planned for the southeast corner of Stadium Drive and Oliver Street.

"We see a new student services building as essential to provide our customers, the students, with the convenience of doing all their business transactions in a single, one-stop location," Beam said. "Currently, students often must make visits to three separate buildings."

The first step in the process is to secure state approval for planning money, set at $250,000 for 1998. Construction could begin in October 1998 and be completed in December 2000.

Other requests seek state funds to renovate Sangren and McCracken halls in four phases, including the construction of an addition for chemistry and paper science and engineering ($45 million); the renovation of East Campus buildings for administrative offices ($36 million); and maintenance projects ($23 million).

Still other requests are for projects to renovate South Campus buildings for the College of Health and Human Services ($60 million); to remodel Rood Hall for the departments of computer science and mathematics and statistics ($30 million); to renovate Sprau Tower ($15 million); and to make master plan and infrastructure improvements to the South Campus ($22.5 million).

The South Campus includes property housing the Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, which WMU has been authorized to receive from the state Department of Community Mental Health. Projects on the list that already are under way include the renovation of the University's power plant and the construction of science facilities.

In other action, the board authorized the appointment of Deloitte & Touche as the University's external auditor for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1998. The firm, with local offices in Grand Rapids, provides similar services to several other colleges and universities in Michigan.

It replaces Plante & Moran, which has been WMU's external auditor for the past seven years. It is a standard practice of the University to rotate external auditors every few years.

The board also authorized the administration to transfer ownership of Wood Hall and the new Science Research Pavilion to the State Building Authority to allow the state to sell bonds to finance its share of the project. WMU will then lease the facilities back for a nominal cost. The property will return to WMU ownership when the bonds are paid off.


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