Carlson remodeling an ‘important change’ for university

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Some know Carlson Hall as the campus building that has sat empty for almost two years since the inception of Hyland Hall.

However, Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-2013 capital budget proposal calls for a $17 million makeover to the former home of the College of Business and Economics, and a total of $35 million for other campus projects.

“Carlson is a really important change for us,” Chancellor Richard Telfer said. “It’s a building that’s been sitting empty for several years; that’s not good for the building and that’s not good for us. We really need to improve space.”

Carlson Hall is due for a $17 million remodeling project in Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed capital budget. The new building would help provide the College of Letters and Sciences with their own building. Photos submitted.

Telfer said the remodeled building will be used for the College of Letters and Sciences, which is scattered among seven buildings on campus. The nearly 40-year-old building will now have research labs, a café, new faculty offices, conference rooms and space for student organizations.

Along with the remodeling of Carlson Hall, $4.6 million will be spent to remodel Drumlin Dining Hall, which will change from a food court to a buffet-style dining hall like Esker. About $12.2 million will be used to remodel Bigelow and Benson Halls and $940,000 will be spent on adding a dance studio in the Young Auditorium.

Rep. Evan Wynn, R-Whitewater, said these projects will help keep UW-Whitewater a modernized and attractive place to go to school.

“I see it as a positive thing,” Wynn said. “It will create jobs … it will be good for the economy.”

UW-Whitewater has been home to a few protests and demonstrations against much of what Walker has proposed to fix the budget deficit, but Telfer said he thinks the university community will see these changes as positive.

“I’m not happy with the cuts that we’re having to undergo,” Telfer said. “But that doesn’t mean I want to be cut any more by not having the capital budget. I think the capital budget is something that’s positive … I don’t know if it eases the pain, it just doesn’t make the pain worse.”

Since the projects will create jobs, the state revenue will increase due to the new employees having to pay taxes, which Wynn said is also a positive.

“There really are no negatives,” Wynn said. “I’m just always concerned about people.”

During his campaign last fall, Wynn said he would prefer to spend money on more pertinent state needs rather than on projects like Carlson Hall, and he still stands by that belief. Wynn said he would rather not borrow money because then the money has to be paid back with interest.

Because the money is being borrowed, Wynn said the money could not be saved and used on an area like education.

“It’s not like we can take that money and spend it elsewhere,” Wynn said. “We either spend it on the buildings or we don’t.”

But that’s not the only thing that caught Wynn’s eye in Walker’s budget proposal, which is more than 1,300 pages long.

“Right now, there’s a lot of other things in the budget I don’t like too,” Wynn said. “I’d like to see the state focus on taking care of people but I’m not going to stand in the way of these projects getting done at UW-Whitewater.”