Public Works Board delays $60 million UNLV project

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Public Works Board members put the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' proposed $60 million Science Engineering and Technology complex on hold Tuesday to make room for a list of maintenance and smaller projects, including two in Carson City, they believe are more critical.

Board Chairman Sean Carnahan said he was concerned not only that the plans for the massive complex don't seem fully fleshed out yet, but with the huge share of the $130 million pot of state bond money the project needs.

The state's share is $35.5 million.

Carnahan expressed concern the state might move too quickly into a building that hasn't been fully designed and thought through. He said the state wants "a showcase building," rather than another Lied Library -- the UNLV project that has been plagued with construction problems and cost overruns.

Board member John Breternitz pointed out that construction isn't scheduled to start until January 2005.

Member Rene Ashleman argued the complex was the university system's top priority this session and he said they may be able to get it under construction earlier than scheduled.

But a majority of three members -- Carnahan, Breternitz and Director of Administration Perry Comeaux -- voted to postpone it. Comeaux said the actual delay in construction would only be about six months.

That made room for a variety of other projects on the list.

Seismic strengthening of the Capitol Annex is the board's top construction priority. The Capitol was rebuilt in 1977-78, but Public Works Board Manager Dan O'Brien said the octagonal annex behind it wasn't. He said the safety work for $443,236 must be conducted before the annex is remodeled.

The top maintenance project is also in Carson City: demolition of the old firehouse behind the historic Ormsby County Courthouse, which was recently remodeled as office space for the attorney general. The old firehouse will be removed to provide parking, which Comeaux said should help ease the crowding by state worker vehicles in surrounding neighborhoods.

The board voted to put $8.4 million to build an emergency management operations center high on the priority list . Comeaux said with Homeland Security on everyone's mind, that structure should get a much higher priority.

The board will hold a telephone conference soon to finalize the recommendations and put them in order of priority for the governor.


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