Contacts:   Grattan Kerans, 503-373-7490, grattan_kerans@ous.edu 

                   Di Saunders, 503-725-5714; Cell: 503-807-5539; diane_saunders@ous.edu

 

Deferred Maintenance Problems on State Campuses Reach "Critical" Condition
Chancellor and University Presidents describe deteriorating infrastructure, safety, and financial risks during press conference and hearing  

SALEM, February 27 - In a press conference and Senate Education Committee hearing today, Oregon University System (OUS) Chancellor, Richard Jarvis, detailed the extent of deferred maintenance problems on Oregon's seven public university campuses. OUS is requesting $500 million in General Obligation Bond Authority to repair critical building and subsystem problems that are now a decade over due for rehabilitation. Also presenting campus specific information at the press conference and hearing were Dr. Martha Anne Dow, president of Oregon Institute of Technology; Dr. Timothy White, interim president of Oregon State University; Dr. Daniel Bernstein, president of Portland State University; Dr. Elizabeth Zinser, president of Southern Oregon University; President Phillip Conn, president of Western Oregon University; and Robert Simonton, director of capital construction, planning & budgeting for OUS.

"We have reached a point where 50% of the state-owned facilities on Oregon's public university campuses need major, critical repairs," said Jarvis. "Our primary concern remains the safety of our students and campus community, and the astronomical costs we face in the near future if we do not address these deferred maintenance issues in the short term," he added. The total cost of making critical repairs has reached almost $500 million, while actual building replacement would total more than $3 billion. "It's a case of pay now or pay later. But later turns it into a multi-billion dollar problem and puts our students, faculty and staff at greater risk," said Jarvis.

OUS has been presenting its case on the state of deferred campus maintenance since the early 1990s, but has thus far been unable to gain approval for a bond measure. Half of all buildings on state campuses were built between 1960 and 1975, so subsystems in buildings - such as electrical wiring, plumbing and heating/cooling systems - are substantially past lifecycle standards.

Simonton said, "Oregon has a great window right now to address our urgent need to repair and replace worn-out building systems. Bond interest rates are at historic lows, this project would create 5,000 family-wage jobs across the state, and it is a very favorable contracting market in terms of costs of construction."

If Senate Bill 240 passes, the $500 million bond measure would go to Oregon voters next year, with the actual bond sale in early 2005 if approved. "The way the bill is structured, the budget impact of the bonds would not be on the books until the 2005-07 biennium, the bonds would be limited to $500 million, and the ability to use the bonds would sunset after ten years," said Jarvis. Currently only 2.8% of the OUS General Fund Budget is attributed to debt, far below its "peer" average of almost 6%. Current, total Article XI-G bonding capacity for OUS is $2.2 billion.

During the afternoon hearing, five university presidents provided testimony to the Senate Education Committee.

President Zinser, whose institution would receive $25 million or 5% of the financing, noted that the bonds would allow SOU to complete much needed maintenance on aging buildings all at once, versus small fixes over a long period of time. She noted that this would be a safer and ultimately less costly way to repair SOU's top priorities: Britt Center, McNeal Pavilion and Churchill Hall.

Oregon State University faces the largest percent of deferred maintenance need due to the age and size of the campus, said Interim President Timothy White. OSU would utilize $158 million, or 33%, of the total bonds. OSU's most severe problems are in the Heating Plant, built in 1924, Strand Ag Hall, and Education Hall, constructed in 1902 and currently encased in a chain link fence and plywood shield to protect students and other users from the unstable building.  

Oregon Institute of Technology President, Dow, said that some of their buildings need upgrading - particularly Cornett Hall and the Learning Resource Center - in order to maintain critical space for students which meets their high tech training needs in engineering, technology and nuclear medicine. OIT is in line for $17 million, or 3% of the funds pool, some of which will be used to repair and replace campus HVAC and electrical systems.

Portland State University, the Systems largest institution serving 23,000 students, would receive 28% of the bond financing, or $137 million. Most of its deferred maintenance is in Lincoln Hall, built in 1911 as a high school and originally slated for demolition in the 1940s, and the campuses' Science Buildings, which ironically, house some of the most sophisticated lab equipment and technology in the Northwest. Deferred maintenance at PSU would create approximately 1000 new jobs in the Portland area.

President Conn of WOU, the state's oldest public campus, noted that his campus has major electricity distribution, galvanized plumbing and HVAC systems in most of its stately old buildings that are in dire need of rehabilitation. WOU, which would get $19 million or 4% of the bonds, wants to take its older buildings and the heritage they represent and make them safe and usable for students.  

University of Oregon would receive about a quarter of the funds, a total of $123 million, part of which would repair utility systems across campus, and renovate Straub Hall and Pacific Hall. Eastern Oregon University's share would be 2% or $8 million, with its key problem buildings including Inlow Hall, Pierce Library, and Zabel Hall.

At the conclusion of the testimony, the Senate Committee on Education moved the bill to the Ways and Means Committee with a "Do-Pass" recommendation.

Oregon University System (OUS) comprises seven distinguished public universities, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services and lifelong learning. For additional information on deferred maintenance issues, go to www.ous.edu/capital.

Oregon University System (OUS) comprises seven distinguished public universities, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services and lifelong learning. The Oregon State Board of Higher Education, the statutory governing board of OUS, is composed of eleven members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Oregon State Senate. For additional information, go to www.ous.edu 

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