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Chancellor’s Blog: JFC approves Science and Health Sciences Building phase one funding

| Chancellor James Schmidt

This is good news for UW-Eau Claire! While funding for state building projects was one of the last items the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance considered this year, I’m pleased to inform you that the capital budget passed this evening included $109 million for phase one of a Science and Health Sciences Building to replace Phillips Hall. It also included $1 million for advance planning of the project’s second phase.

After months spent informing our area businesses, alumni and elected officials about this project, and having received endorsements from Gov. Tony Evers, former Gov. Tommy Thompson and numerous area economic development organizations, it is extremely gratifying to see the state Legislature’s budget-writing committee lend the project their support.

In a challenging budget year, attaining funding for this project was far from a guarantee. Only by the diligent and passionate efforts of our bipartisan delegation of local legislators, the Chippewa Valley area business community and our many engaged alumni were we able to help so many people from across the state to advocate for this project. Once again, one of my favorite sayings has proven true: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

I also would like to thank our partners at Mayo Clinic Health System, who traveled to Madison with us to share their vision for growth and innovation in rural health care delivery in northwest Wisconsin. Together, we were able to demonstrate the power of a partnership that draws on a shared passion for research and a vision for serving Wisconsin’s patients and students.

The $109 million enumeration includes $93.25 million in general-fund-supported borrowing (GFSB, or state bonding) for construction of the new facility, as well as approval for $13.7 million in philanthropic contributions. Mayo Clinic Health System has set a goal for philanthropy to support the cost of creating and occupying a 10,000-square-foot shared research workspace in the building. The $109 million approval also authorizes spending $2.04 million in campus funds to demolish the almost 70-year-old Katharine Thomas and Katherine Putnam residence halls to clear the site for the new Science and Health Sciences Building. Phase two of the project can be considered in the 2021-23 state budget.

Today’s vote by the JFC was a monumental step for this project, our community and the state of Wisconsin, but more approvals are still needed. The Wisconsin State Assembly and Senate must now pass matching versions of the budget before sending a bill to the governor for approval and/or vetoes. Because Governor Evers is serving his first term, the tentative budget adoption deadline has been set for Aug. 1, 2019. I will keep you posted as the state budget process enters its final stages.

Top photo caption: Jake Wrasse, government and community relations specialist at UW-Eau Claire, talks with state representatives Mark Born, Rob Swearingen, Romaine Quinn, Jesse James and Rob Summerfield (facing away from camera) during a spring semester tour of UW-Eau Claire's Phillips Hall. The deteriorating facility is to be replaced by a new Science and Health Sciences Building, phase one of which is funded in the capital budget approved June 11 by the Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance.

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