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Board proceeds with visual arts center

Jan. 09, 2013 @ 11:24 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Despite being more than $800,000 over the projected budget, the Marshall University Board of Governors gave its unanimous approval during a special meeting Wednesday afternoon to accept the low bid for its downtown visual arts center.

The center will be located in the 900 block of 3rd Avenue in a six-story building across from Pullman Square which was formerly known as the Stone & Thomas building. The facility is designed to house the visual and graphic arts programs, offices for faculty, studios and gallery space. There also will be shell space on the first floor for private retail space.

Bids were opened last week with Neighborgall Construction delivering the only bid under $11 million at $10,873,000. Initial projections were in the $10 million range. One board member on the conference call asked why bids were coming in over estimate, referring to higher-than-expected bids for both the soccer stadium and the applied engineering facility.

Marshall President Stephen Kopp said there's no hard answer, telling board members that information from the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission found capital projects statewide were coming in an average of 10 percent over the estimate. One project, Kopp said, was 30 percent higher.

One reason could be that the estimates of projects on the capital campaign list are about two years old, and there can be market fluctuations. Kopp also said that when contractors bid on multi-year contracts, some may look at certain costs and base their estimate on whether something is trending up or down. The cost of fuel, he said, is one example.

But he and board members commented that the university needs to move forward.

"We have a set of projects in the $110 million range that we are committed to building if we have sufficient funds," Kopp said.

And there is money to spend. The bond proceeds were $52.1 million, plus $25 million from an HEPC bond issuance for the engineering complex. In addition, about half of the $40 million fundraising goal has been donated or pledged for the projects, which also include an indoor practice facility, sports medicine translational research center and academic support center. The parking garage on 6th Avenue which opened in August cost $7.023 million and was paid for entirely with bond proceeds, Kopp said.

The capital projects list also includes a modern academic instructional facility to be built on the current site of Laidley Hall, with an estimated cost of $14 million. Of that, $11 million was supposed to come from the bond.

However, Kopp said that project is on hold because circumstances on campus changed in the past year with the community college moving off campus and the new agreement with INTO University Partners, the latter of which is expected to bring hundreds of international undergraduate students to Marshall each year. Kopp said that has them thinking about a living and learning facility, which could be financed through a public-private model.

What that means is the $11 million initially budgeted for the academic facility can be moved to cover the unexpected costs.

"We have the authority to take bond proceeds and apply to anyone of those bond projects," Kopp said. "We're only going to build these buildings once, and we want to be faithful to the programs. We want to make sure these programs will serve the university for years to come."



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