Universities like three-year building plan

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Mississippi higher education officials say the Legislature’s stated “intent” to issue three years of bonds for construction projects will allow them to better plan for their building needs.
During the recently completed 2013 session, the Legislature approved a bond package totaling $196 million to finance building projects at the universities, community colleges, for state office buildings and for various tourism-related and economic development projects throughout the state.
Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign the bond bill this week.
The package includes $96.5 million for the state’s eight public universities.
While the Legislature did not issue bonds during the 2012 session because the House and Senate leaders could not agree on the size of the package, bond proposals are passed most years and signed into law by the governor.
What is different about what the Legislature did during the 2013 session is the language in the bond bill stating it is “the intent of the Legislature to authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds during the 2014 and 2015 regular sessions for the capital needs of state institutions of higher learning as recommended by the Department of Finance and Administration.”
The state College Board works with DFA on developing bond projects for the universities. The three-year plan includes $96.5 million for the 2013 session, $92.4 million for 2014 and $68.6 million for 2015.
“Having a three-year plan enables the universities to manage campus improvements more effectively,” Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds said. “The House and Senate are to be commended for their foresight and vision for Mississippi public universities.”
The projects approved in 2013 for the University of Mississippi are $6 million for renovations to the Music Hall and Meek Hall, which is where art classes are taught.
In 2014, the planned projects are $12.8 million for renovations to Garland, Hedleston and Mayes dorms and $1.2 million for preplanning of a new science building. In 2015, $10 million is planned for the new science building.
Also, $31 million was approved in 2013 for the first phase of the university’s expansion of its medical school in Jackson. Another $30.5 million is planned in 2014 for the project, which coincides with a push by Ole Miss to graduate more physicians.
At Mississippi State University, $9.8 million has been approved for the renovation of the YMCA building, which is now an office building, and $200,000 has been OK’d for the preplanning of the library expansion. In 2014, $7 million is planned for the library expansion and in 2015, $13 million is scheduled for the civil and environmental engineering complex.
At MSU’s Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, $7.5 million has been approved for the construction, and equipping of the animal life science initiative at the Leveck Animal Research Center on the Starkville campus. In 2015, $12.5 million is planned for a food science project.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com