The Richmond Register

April 1, 2014

Science building ground breaking planned for summer

By Bill Robinson
Register Editor

RICHMOND —

A $66.3 million appropriation in the new state budget will fully fund completion of Eastern Kentucky University’s New Science Building, according to EKU President Michael Benson.
A summer ground breaking ceremony is planned for the project, he said.
Although the building’s $64 million first phase began use in January 2012, completion has awaited funding until now.
Phase 1 of the building now houses the chemistry and physics/astronomy departments as well as classrooms and laboratories. The biological sciences and geography/geology departments will move into Phase 2.
“It is impossible to overstate how significant this investment is to our science programs, and I look forward to breaking ground with the entire EKU community on Phase 2 this summer,” Benson said.
The project represents “a generational opportunity that will expand our STEM+H capacity” and will help Eastern “prepare this generation and others for years to come,” the president said.
However, the two-year budget will cut the state appropriation for operating expenses by 1.5 percent in the biennium’s first year, Benson noted.
State funding for higher education has been declining steadily for years, leading to a corresponding rise in tuition costs at Eastern and all state universities.
Despite the cut in operational funds, the budget includes some “key funding needed to help move our institution forward in the years and decades to come,” Benson added.
These include:
• $2 million for capital investments into the aviation program
• $15 million in bond authorization to expand and renovate athletics facilities
• $75 million in bonding authorized for potential public/private student housing developments.
EKU will use the $2 million appropriation to build its own hangar at the Madison Airport and purchase a flight simulator and other training equipment, said spokesperson Marc Whitt.
No specifics were available regarding athletic facility improvements.
“Accomplishing all of these key initiatives would not have been possible without each of you and your commitment to our mission as an institution,” Benson said in a statement to the campus community. “For those who engaged in helping to shape and share the message about how much these projects and funding mean to EKU, I extend a very special thank you.”
Members of the EKU Board of Regents played a key role in helping push the university’s agenda forward throughout the session, the president added.
Benson said he and David McFaddin, the university’s legislative liaison, met Monday with lawmakers in Frankfort yesterday to thank them for their support.
Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, and Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, “were key in advocating for us at vital moments,” the president said.
Bill Robinson can be reached at editor@richmondregister.com or at 624-6690.