Project control sought

Joe Lord

Western’s projects. Western’s problem.

The university is expected to begin running campus construction projects with costs of $400,000 or greater, pending approval from the Board of Regents at its May 9 meeting.

The Division of Financial Management in Frankfort now controls such projects for the university.

John Osborne, associate vice president for facilities management and campus services, said the university’s construction management division has reached a “competency level” to handle such projects locally instead of through Frankfort.

Construction Manager Ed West agreed.

“We’ve felt like for the past couple of years we’ve been in a pretty good position,” he said.

West said the university will be able to conduct construction business, such as project bids, on campus instead of in Frankfort.

The move will eliminate a middle man and make their work run more efficiently, he said.

Facilities officials often spend entire days traveling to Frankfort for meetings when bids open on a project.

“So you pretty much kill a day just to go up for a 15 or 30 minute bid opening,” he said.

West and Osborne both said the state’s financial management division has done a good job in running the university’s construction projects.

“There are no problems that exist,” West said.

He said switching to university control won’t have many financial rewards because project management costs, such as a project manager’s salary, are passed on by the state to Western.

“When it’s all said and done, I think we probably will do a little better than what we’re doing now, but it’s pretty much a wash,” West said.

The move is allowed through the University Management Bill, which was passed by the state legislature in 1982, to allow state universities to control such functions as construction, accounting and investments. The university chose to control all the provisions of the University Management Bill except construction.

West said the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and Murray State have all taken control of their construction projects through the University Management Bill.

The process won’t end with approval from the regents, West said. There will have to be a handful of meetings in Frankfort before the move becomes official.

He said the Division of Financial Management has several projects statewide and has not expressed concern about Western’s proposed move.

Don Riley, associate director for capital construction administration at Murray, said his university has benefited from moving in 1998 to controlling their construction projects.

The move allows Murray to act on problems that come up during construction projects, he said. Project managers, engineers and others involved in the construction are also more responsive because they answer directly to the university.

“Problems come up, we don’t have to wait for an answer from a far away place,” Riley said.

Riley said he has talked with West about how the Murray program works.

“I would just have to say I think it’s a good move for the university,” Riley said.

There have been about 12 projects, totaling about $40 million, since Murray switched, he said.

Riley said Murray has probably saved some money from switching over, but couldn’t say.

West said the parking structure expansion may be the first project to be run completely by the university.

In other business

At the May 9 meeting, the Board of Regents is expected to:

•Approve four mandatory student fees, totaling $103, for the 2003-04 school year.

•Vote to approve joint degree programs in electrical engineering with the University of Louisville and in civil engineering with the University of Kentucky.

•Recognize the forensics team for winning three major championships this season.

•Authorize President Gary Ransdell to fulfill the terms of a contract that sells one acre of property on Morgantown Road and Forrest Drive to Bowling Green Municipal Utilities to build a water tower.

•Approve the purchase of property at 1702 Normal Drive.

•Approve revisions to the 2002-03 Operating Budget.

•Approve a submission by Western to the Council on Postsecondary Education for $3,056,000 in matching funds from the Regional University Excellence Trust Fund.

•Approve a six-year capital plan that outlines the university’s science buildings, including the Thompson Complex and Science and Technology Hall, as its top renovation priorities.

•Approve the names of rooms in the new Mass Media and Technology Hall and in other university buildings.

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]