Six-year capital plan approved at Board of Regents committee meeting

Jackson French

The Board of Regents has been working to compile a six-year capital plan that was approved at the Board of Regents committee meeting on March 29.

President Gary Ransdell said the plan will next go to the full board meeting for approval on April 26, then be submitted to Frankfort.

Bryan Russell, director of Planning, Design and Construction, said the six-year capital plan is a requirement for all universities in Kentucky.

“We’re required every two years to submit a six-year capital plan, which is typically a list of projects,” he said.

Russell said the university is required to put any potential project for the next six years that would cost more than $600,000 on the capital plan.

The current rough draft of this year’s capital plan includes 75 projects, which would cost an estimated grand total of $673,900,000.

When people see that, Russell said they think WKU’s got $600 million worth of projects they’re going to do.

“That’s not what the six-year capital plan is,” he said. “The capital plan is the needs of the university that we are asking for the state to help fund.

“They’re not all projects that are going to get done.”

Faculty Regent Patricia Minter said every potential project the university might undertake in the next six years is on the list, in order of priority.

“It’s a plan, but it’s also a wish list,” she said. “Any project ever in the next six years that the university would like to work on has to be on that list.”

Minter said it’s not a hard and fast list.

“The priorities can change, but at this moment, if money were available, this is what we would do in this order,” she said.

Ransdell said if WKU ends up wanting to do a project not included on the list, it can be difficult to get approved.

“The only way you can do a project that’s not on that list is to seek specific General Assembly approval for that individual project, which is a cumbersome, sometimes difficult thing to do,” Ransdell said.

Two items, a new parking structure and an expansion to the Preston Center, are toward the bottom of the list, even though Ransdell said they are the two things he hears most that students want.

“I would not read anything into the fact that it’s so far down on the list,” he said. “Sometimes, the means happen to where something far down on the list gets done before things ranked way ahead of it, just because you have the opportunity to do it.”

He said the reason those two projects are toward the bottom is they will require agency bonds, which the university has to pay for itself, so they would likely require student fees.

“That’s somewhere down the road before we would propose such a thing,” Ransdell said.

Russell said renovating the Thompson Complex, projected to cost $48 million, is the school’s top priority, and Minter reiterated that.

“It’s been our number one project for at least a couple of years,” Minter said.

Russell said the school is asking the state to help fund the project because it is an academic facility.

“Dr. Ransdell has consistently said academic buildings should be paid for by the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” he said.

Russell said the last WKU project the state funded was Gary Ransdell Hall.

He said other important projects on the capital plan include an infrastructure budget for electric lines and steam lines, which the capital plan predicts will cost $30 million, and constructing a new building for the Gordon Ford College of Business and renovating Grise Hall, which is expected to cost $70,200,000.

Russell said the projects in the capital plan are being submitted to the state for authorization, but the state’s approval of a project does not necessarily mean the school will be able to go through with it.

“It doesn’t mean there’s a project,” Russell said. “They’re giving us permission to do that project if funds are found or are made available.”

Russell said the process of reviewing WKU’s capital plan will not conclude until October or November. There are no guarantees of the state helping to fund any of the projects.

Minter reiterated that uncertainty.

“We don’t know when the assembly will fund anything again, but we certainly look forward to the restoration of funding for capital projects,” Minter said.