Bill to allocate funds for Lafferre Hall renovation advances to state Senate

Friday, May 2, 2014 | 8:08 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Missouri House voted Thursday to pass a bill that would allocate $38.5 million to renovate Thomas and Nell Lafferre Hall on MU's campus, if it is approved in the Senate. 

The House voted 137-9 to send House Bill 2021 to the Senate. The bill provides money to the university for "planning, design, and construction of strategic renovations and additions to Lafferre Hall," according to language in the bill.

Lafferre Hall is made up of eight buildings and houses 70 percent of the College of Engineering. The funds from the house bill would pay to renovate portions of Lafferre on the west side of the building, which were built in 1935 and 1944.

University officials and state representatives have been discussing updates to Lafferre for several years.

"It's been the No. 1 priority of the university for six years," said Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, who has sponsored similar bills in the past.

The cost of the renovations is estimated at $32.6 million, according to a Campus Facilities report completed in March.

The report also indicates that the bare minimum repairs would cost $21.4 million. This includes fixing chipped tiles and paint and repairing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The renovation plan goes beyond this to update the classrooms and labs.

"We're adjusting the building and making more collaborative spaces where students and faculty and researchers can work together, updating and renovating labs, and creating modern teaching and learning environments and up-to-date engineering and class labs," said Karlan Seville, Campus Facilities communications manager.

The university uses a Facility Condition Needs Index, which is the ratio of total facility needs, to determine what facilities are in need of renovation or replacement on campus.

These two portions of Lafferre have an FCNI of 0.91. This means that Campus Facilities believes 91 percent of this space needs renovation.

The only building on campus with a higher index is Curtis Hall, which has an index of 1.24. An index this high indicates it would be cheaper to completely rebuild instead of fixing existing problems.

Buildings with an index of 0.4 or higher are considered in need of complete renovation. According to Campus Facilities' master plan, there are 26 education and general buildings on campus that require renovation, including Lafferre and Curtis Halls.

Kelly said he has worked to get similar bills passed three times, but each time the bill has died in the Missouri Senate.

The Senate drafted a similar bill in March that would provide up to $550 million in revenue bonds to higher education. About $71 million of the money would go toward UM System projects, according to a Senate resolution.

The House has not voted on this bill, Kelly said, because it allocates money to maintenance on these facilities rather than the necessary rebuilding or renovations. 

"The Senate bill was fine, but it just cleaned up messes," he said. "I'd rather make it better. I'd rather change it."

The total facilities backlog for MU is $553 million, $114 million of which is described as critical within the next year, according to documents from the June 2013 Board of Curators meeting.

MU's Vice Chancellor for Facilities Gary Ward said in a previous Missourian article that this backlog increases by an average of $22 million every year.

Because of this, Seville said the university needs state funding for the magnitude of the Lafferre project. In addition to improving the infrastructure of the university, Kelly said the funding will have an impact on the state as a whole.

He said the poor condition of the building is detrimental for recruiting the best engineering students.

"You can build a new building or watch Missouri's economic development struggle as we don't train enough engineers," Kelly said.

All budget-related bills must be passed by May 9, and Kelly said he believes this is the House's last effort to fund these renovations for a few years. He said a bond for the Fulton Hospital might prevent money in the budget from being allocated to building improvements at MU. 

Seville said without this bill, these projects may go uncompleted.

"We have to have help," Seville said. "We can't fund it ourselves, and we can't fund it without state help."

Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.

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