Universities OK’d for building projects despite costs | NevadaAppeal.com

Universities OK’d for building projects despite costs

The Nevada Interim Finance Committee gave the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas permission to go ahead with two major building projects, even though rising steel and cement costs mean there isn’t enough money in the budget.

The projects are the new library in Reno – the UNR Knowledge Center – which costs $86 million and the Science and Technology Building at UNLV costing more than $60 million.

University of Nevada, Reno President John Lilley told lawmakers the problem is the “hyper-inflation” in the price of steel and the sharp increases in concrete prices as well. He blamed the burgeoning Chinese economy, which is buying up thousands of tons of steel from everywhere possible including the U.S., for driving prices up more than 10 percent a year.

As a result, he said, neither of those projects can be completed for the amounts approved by the Legislature. The Reno project would be nearly $9 million short at current costs and the UNLV project near $7 million below newly projected costs.

“We have already cut the project to bring it within the budget,” said Lilley. He said any further cuts would leave UNR with a building that doesn’t meet growing student needs.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas President Carol Harter Harter said the same is true of the Science and Technology Building.

The board, composed of members of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees, gave both campuses permission to go ahead with the projects without cutting back the size or design of either building.

Public Works Manager Dan O’Brien said both buildings will be built as originally planned but that certain parts of them will just be “shelled in” and not completed so they can be furnished and used by students. He said that means, unless steel prices fall by the time contracts are signed, the campuses will either have to get more money from the 2005 and 2007 Legislatures or raise the cash themselves to complete the buildings.

Contact Geoff Dornan at nevadaappeal@sbcglobal.net or 687-8750.