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BSU president reflects on bonding bill results

The bonding bill signed Monday by Gov. Tim Pawlenty will help pay for about $12 million in projects at Bemidji State University.

"It was a very good day for Bemidji State University," BSU President Jon Quistgaard said.

The bonding bill includes an $8.9 million renovation and addition project at Sattgast Hall, $525,000 to renovate space in Memorial Hall for nursing clinical labs and classrooms and $2.28 million for maintenance projects.

It also includes $20 million toward the Bemidji regional events center, which will be the home for BSU's Division I hockey program.

"I'm really pleased that the governor determined that this project is meritorious," Quistgaard said.

Scratched from the bonding bill was $2 million for BSU to acquire about 12 acres of the old Bemidji High School campus. Pawlenty cut all property acquisition requests by state colleges and universities in the bill with a line-item veto.

"We've been so close in each of the last two sessions," said Quistgaard, noting that the state Legislature included the request in its bonding bills both years. "We're just going to have to go back to work and try to achieve that goal the next time around."

The Bemidji State University Foundation bought the property last summer from the Bemidji School District for $575,000 and is paying for the abatement and demolition with the plan that BSU will reimburse it for these costs. BSU plans to use the land for future academic expansion.

Hazardous material abatement began March 3 at the site in preparation for the demolition of the old high school's A Building and auditorium. Abatement is expected to be finished in May and demolition is set to begin that month.

Quistgaard said these plans will continue as scheduled.

Also omitted from the bonding bill was a request for money to demolish Maple Hall, a residence hall at BSU.

"We knew going into this session that it would be a bit of a long shot," Quistgaard said.

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities listed demolition requests as No. 29 of 37 priorities in its 2008 bonding request, right below the request for property acquisition dollars for eight campuses.

Sattgast Hall project

The Sattgast Hall renovation and addition project was ranked as the fifth priority on MnSCU's bonding request this year.

The project includes a 21,600-square-foot addition to the 46-year-old building, renovation of more than 8,300 square feet of space for nursing, botany and anatomy, and physiology, and the demolition of the Peters Aquatic Lab.

Quistgaard said design and architectural plans are in place for the project. He said the project will begin around July 1 and is expected to be completed in one and a half years.

Nursing area project

The project to renovate space in Memorial Hall for nursing clinical labs and classrooms will also begin around July 1.

"We're very excited about that," Quistgaard said.

The renovated space will help BSU implement the new four-year baccalaureate degree in nursing that it launched last fall to complement the BSU's existing R.N. to Baccalaureate track. The new space will provide an area for nursing students to develop hands-on clinical procedures skills.

Quistgaard said BSU hopes to have the renovated area operational by fall semester. Design and architectural plans, he said, are already in place.

The project was part of MnSCU's No. 9 bonding priority this year -- lab renovations at campuses across the system.

Maintenance needs

The bonding bill includes $55 million for repair and replacement projects throughout MnSCU campuses, including $2.28 million for BSU. MnSCU had requested $110 million for these projects.

The funds for these types of projects, which range from roof replacements to heating and ventilation repairs, were MnSCU's top priority in its bonding request this year.

Support appreciated

Quistgaard credited the university's success in this year's bonding bill to many people, including those on campus who helped get BSU projects ranked as priorities in MnSCU's bonding request.

He also noted the "tremendous support" from Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, and Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji.

"The governor's support is also greatly appreciated," Quistgaard added.