NOTE: Electronic photos of the event are available at http://www.wsu.edu/~photos/govlocke.
PULLMAN, Wash. – Gov. Gary Locke told Washington State University educators today (Dec. 17) the state’s budget office has found a way to restart the $880 million state building and facilities construction budget.
If the Washington Legislature approves the plan, money for key projects at WSU will be provided as well as more jobs for the local economy, Locke said in a press conference at WSU’s new Center for Undergraduate Education.
Some of those projects include $10.9 million for the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication addition, $10.6 million for the shock physics building, $6 million for minor capital improvements, and $3.5 million in design funds for the bioscience building and Johnson Hall addition.
Another $2 million would be devoted for designing the WSU Spokane Academic Center Building. It will house teaching and research programs that cannot be accommodated in the Health Sciences Building under construction at the Riverpoint Campus.
The unfrozen resources also would mean $23 million for a modern energy plant at WSU. Campus utility systems, roads, pedestrian walkways and other outdated infrastructure would be replaced for another $11.8 million, Locke said.
The Nov. 20 revenue forecast predicted the state would be down $813 million in income. That reduced the state’s ability to finance construction projects by almost $200 million, the governor said.
Locke explained that a provision of Initiative 728 would allow the state to use lottery money dedicated to education building improvements to pay off existing debt. The move would allow money allotted to construction projects threatened by declining state revenue to be used. The refinancing plan also would provide an additional $100 million for expansion and renovation of state buildings and facilities across Washington, Locke said.
Construction projects will go a long way to stimulate an ailing economy, he said. The projects would bolster the needs of higher education in regions such as WSU. The proposal will save a total of 2,800 new jobs and create 1,400 jobs.
Locke also emphasized the need for a long-term transportation plan that benefits both eastern and western Washington. His plan, which includes a divided highway between Pullman and Moscow, Idaho, has projects identified throughout the state.
“I’m glad we’re solving our state building and facilities construction problem and creating even more jobs,” the governor said. “But frankly, the most important thing the Legislature can do this winter is approve a transportation improvement plan. With it, we can build on our successes, and without it, we can kiss the successes goodbye.”
The Center for Undergraduate Education is expected to open spring semester. It was designed with a mix of contemporary and traditional elements to help it blend into the surrounding campus.
The $32 million facility includes state-of-the-art energy conversation features such as sensors that shut down lights when spaces are not occupied, insulated window glass and a sleep mode with programmable heating, cooling and lighting.
The 94,000-square-foot building includes 20 classrooms – complete with Internet access at every seat – that can accommodate 1269 students. Those classrooms include two auditoriums with seating for 245 and 109, 12 medium-size classrooms with seating for 36-40, five large classrooms with seating for up to 81 students and one computer classroom with seating for 30.
In addition, the building houses a computer technology lab with 63 workstations and additional space for 33 laptops. Wireless computer data network access is available in the lab as well as the computer classroom.
The building features a 285-stall parking structure with exterior parking for 65 vehicles.