Construction funding delayed at WKU with economy suffering

Nick Bratcher

With the economy recovering slowly, future construction progress on WKU’s campus may take longer than expected.

When the Board of Regents passed the 2012-2018 Capital Plan in April, the plan identified the primary needs of construction and renovation at WKU. At the top of this list is the $48 million renovation of the Ogden College of Science and Engineering.

John Osborne, vice president of Campus Services and Facilities, said the plan ranks WKU’s needs in hopes of being included in Kentucky’s biennial state budget when the General Assembly meets in January.

“It’s all tied to the economy,” he said. “Some states have suffered more through this financial crisis that we’re still in. We have not been receiving in this last biennium a great deal of money.

“We really won’t know until April when the session ends what the budget bill holds for us. They have their own set of criteria in determining what they think is a priority.”

Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said WKU’s priorities for academic progress are loosely reflected in the plan.

“The university is here primarily for its academic purpose,” Emslie said. “It’s very important that we provide our faculty and our students the facilities they need to be as productive as they can be.”

Blaine Ferrell, the dean of Ogden College, said sciences are changing so rapidly that WKU needs this renovation to be on the cutting edge and capable of attracting students.

“The thing is, as you go on for a number of years, programs change and the needs of students change,” he said. “With technology and everything, we have some different needs and maybe some reconfiguration is in order there.”

The proposed renovations would include a new planetarium, the demolition of the Thompson Complex North Wing and a renovation of the Central Wing.

Ferrell said the science campus renovation would also allow professors to move into offices near their classrooms and laboratories.

Right now, the bulk of classes take place in Snell Hall and the Complex for Engineering and Biological Sciences while offices are spread out to other buildings, Ferrell said.

“What I really appreciated about the faculty is they opted to put all the classrooms in the new buildings and save the old buildings for their office, which really speaks highly of them,” Ferrell said.

Renovating the science campus has been an ongoing process that is now in its fourth phase, said Bryan Russell, director of Planning, Design and Construction.

“The Ogden College renovation has been a work of over 10 years,” he said. “It continues to be one of the university’s priority goals to finish Ogden College.”