Agencies seek $1 billion in construction, but bonding available for just half that total

Undeterred by the state's economic problems, agencies are asking the Public Works Board for $1 billion in capital construction for the coming budget cycle.

Three quarters of that total, $772 million " is by just the university system and Department of Corrections.

Maud Naroll, chief planner for the state's Department of Administration, told the Public Works Board up front that given the state revenue shortfall, they would be limited to bond money.

"I'm putting odds the amount of cash available for this CIP is zero," she said.

And Naroll told the board over the coming two years, $495 million should be available in bonding capacity for the state.

She said just one project " Prison 8 in southern Nevada " would consume more than half that total.

And Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik said that $286.5 million project is unavoidable because of the growing inmate population.

Altogether, Skolnik's list of projects totals $464.4 million.

The university system's total would require $307.4 million in general fund cash, but their "Tier 1," top priority list of 16, would require $237.3 million.

The system of higher education's problem is a combination of need with students crowding existing buildings and the danger they might lose grants and donations to specific projects unless there is progress on them. They also have several new buildings, which are ready except for the money to equip them with fittings, furnishings and equipment.

Skolnik said the prison would add 500 medium security beds to the prison system and, "we will need the beds according to all of the projections."

But he said that isn't all the department needs. He asked for $7.2 million to begin planning and designing a new women's prison at Indian Springs. That, he said, will free up the existing women's Florence McGuire women's prison in North Las Vegas so it can be converted to house elderly inmates.

"We anticipate a substantial increase in our aging population, frankly," he said adding that the system has more than 1,700 inmates in their 50s or older.

Another high priority, he said, is expanding the core culinary, dining and other facilities at Southern Desert Correctional Center. He said the existing core there was built for 700 inmates but Southern Desert now houses 2,100.

Skolnik also requested more than $14 million for new security fencing around Southern Desert. He said the high tech fences are designed to "detect" any inmate attempts to escape and will make it unnecessary to have tower guards at the institution. He said that translates to an ongoing cash savings because with salaries, each tower costs the state about a quarter million dollars per year.

Asked whether using the "detection" fencing and shutting down the towers will work, he said, "I'm basically putting my career on the line by not building towers."

He said it's time to use the new technology to eliminate human error.

"Every escape we've ever had since I've been in Nevada has been a direct result of human error," he said.

The top of the university system's list is restoration of the three Health Sciences System projects cut this year because of budget shortfalls. The Medical Education lab at UNR, Shadow Lane medical laboratory at UNLV and Nursing Science building at Nevada State College will require a total of $96.8 million in state funds and $48.7 million in other funding.

Truckee Meadows Community College is asking $3.36 million in planning money for a Spanish Springs education center. The issue there is that donors are offering the land for the project " valued at more than $1 million " but could take that offer back unless progress is made on the project.

UNR needs furnishings, equipment and rehabilitation funding to open three buildings: Davidson Math & Sciences Center, the Molecular Medicine Center and the old Getchell Library.

Western Nevada College in Carson City requested $1.6 million to plan a new Allied Health Facility.

The next largest list of project requests came from Health and Human Services at $133.4 million. Most of that is in just two large buildings.

A new office and operations building at the Northern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services campus in Sparks would cost $64.9 million. It would replace seven old buildings.

The other is the $49.6 million southern Nevada forensic institution. Right now the only hospital for mentally ill criminal offenders is Lakes Crossing in Sparks and officials have argued the need in the south is desperate.

Both those projects were approved by the 2007 Legislature but canceled due to budget cuts.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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