Residence Hall project moves to next stage

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Sept. 3, 2014

By Alexandria Zamecnik

 

After getting the nod to proceed with the next phase in building, State Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton, immediately called Chancellor Richard Telfer.

“He was very happy and glad to hear the news and was excited that the ball is rolling,” Jorgensen said.

UW-Whitewater is now able to begin the next phase in the building of a new residence hall, after a month-long delay by the State Department of Administration.

Jorgensen

Jorgensen

The $28 million residence hall project, originally approved by the 2013-15 biennial budget, was stalled in early August after the Joint Finance Committee cut $250 million from the capital budget.

The proposal to build a new residence hall had already been approved by the University of Wisconsin Board Of Regents, the Joint Finance Committee, the State Assembly, the Senate and by Governor Scott Walker.

On Aug. 27, Jorgensen met with Secretary of the Department of Administration, Mike Huebsch, to get a sense of the future for UW-W Residence Halls.

“When I talked to Secretary Huebsch, I expressed how important the project is to the Whitewater area, the students, the university and for local job creation and economic growth,” Jorgensen said.  “And I asked if the Department of Administration, at the very least, could get the ball rolling by hiring an architect to start the design process.”

Huebsch told Jorgensen the project was still in the works, but Gov. Scott Walker directed him to be more “deliberate” with the process, Jorgensen said.

“Some of my colleagues have questioned whether politics are in play here or if this is some sort of sweetheart deal for landlords,” Jorgensen said. “I don’t have any evidence of either of those things. I’m just interested in moving the residence hall project forward.”

Secretary Huebsch agreed to start the bidding process for architects immediately, according to Jorgensen. An architect could begin designing the new residence hall within weeks.

The project that was originally supposed to cost $28 million may get more expensive and not be completed on time, according to Frank Bartlett, Director of Residence Life.

“Because of the delay, that hasn’t been caused by the students or the campus, the students that live in the Residence Halls are going to have to pay more money for the very same project,” Bartlett said.

Although the delay is over for now, Jorgensen said there is always a chance it will stall again.

Jorgensen said he will take action to prevent any more long-term stalling.

“I am going to be in constant communication with the department on behalf and with the university to check that things are going good on their end,” Jorgensen said. “I’ll do my best to make sure everything stays on track. I hope that it will.”

Currently, students must live on campus for their freshmen and sophomore years.

By chance that the delay would be extended, the university would allow a larger number of freshmen students to exempt from their housing contracts during their sophomore year.

These students would then be able to find off-campus housing.

“These are complicated times and we’re trying to do the best we can based on the circumstances we live in,” Bartlett said. “We certainly would love to move forward because it is part of our master plan for residence life.”