Joint Finance Committee approves Science and Health Sciences Building phase one funding

| Julie Poquette

Funding of $109 million for the first phase of a Science and Health Sciences Building at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, plus $1 million for advance planning of the project’s second phase, is included in the capital budget passed tonight by the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance.

The new facility will replace UW-Eau Claire’s current Phillips Science Hall, which was built in two phases in the 1960s and has been deemed to be deteriorating and increasingly inadequate for existing and future academic demand.

Full funding for phase one of the Science and Health Sciences Building was included in both the Joint Finance Committee Democratic and Republican capital budget motions. Gov. Tony Evers included the phase one funding in his executive capital budget, which he announced from Phillips Hall in March.

“We are grateful for the support shown for this project by the Joint Committee on Finance,” said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt. “I also am extremely thankful to our bipartisan delegation of local legislators, Mayo Clinic Health System, our area business community and our engaged alumni, all of whom see the important impact the new Science and Health Sciences Building will have on northwest Wisconsin and have helped to garner statewide support for the project.”

The JFC’s $109 million enumeration includes $93.25 million in 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 JFC also authorized the spending of $2.04 million by UW-Eau Claire to demolish the Katharine Thomas and Katherine Putnam residence halls to clear the site for the new Science and Health Sciences Building.

“As I’ve said before, there is an urgency to this project so that UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff can continue providing the learning experiences that students, accreditation boards and industry in our region expect and need from our university,” Schmidt said. “As this facility takes another step closer to reality we also are encouraged that our faculty will have a facility best suited for providing students our signature collaborative research opportunities, including working with researchers from our partner Mayo Clinic Health System on projects that will serve the health care needs of our region.”

Dr. Richard Helmers, regional vice president for the northwest Wisconsin region of Mayo Clinic Health System, also expressed appreciation for the JFC’s inclusion of the Science and Health Sciences Building funding in the capital budget to be forwarded to the Legislature.

“Our partnership with UW-Eau Claire on this project is helping us invest in groundbreaking research and rural health care innovation right here in Wisconsin,” Helmers said. “Expanding and evolving our excellence in research, education and patient care — Mayo Clinic’s three-shield practice — is at the heart of this partnership, and we are thankful for each step that leads to this investment in the future of rural healthcare.”

The next step in the state budget process is passage of matching versions of the budget by the State Assembly and Senate, after which a bill will be sent to Evers for approval and/or vetoes. The tentative budget adoption deadline has been set for Aug. 1.

Top photo caption: Chris Hessel of UW-Eau Claire's facilities department and Jake Wrasse of UW-Eau Claire university relations talk with state Rep. Jill Billings, Rep. Jodi Emerson and Sen. Jeff Smith (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.

For more information about the Science and Health Sciences Building project at UW-Eau Claire, contact:

  • Corry Mahnke, UW-Eau Claire Chancellor’s Office, 715-836-3331 or mahnkecm@uwec.edu
  • Dan Lea, Mayo Clinic Health System Media Relations, 715-838-6405 or lea.dan@mayo.edu