A year later than anticipated, Columbus State University now appears to have the state funding to finish a science lab building and begin design work on a renovation of the library thanks to the budget that was passed Wednesday by the General Assembly.
The $25 billion budget approved a week before the current General Assembly session ends, includes $2.5 million for two Columbus State main campus projects. There is $2 million for the completion of a new lab sciences building adjacent to LeNoir Hall and $500,000 for the planning of a major renovation to Schwob Library.
The budget passed by legislators must be signed by Gov. Nathan Deal before it goes into affect on July 1. Deal has the line-item veto authority, which means he can cut the budget when it gets to his desk.
John Lester, CSU associate vice president for university and government relations and special assistant to the president, called the passage of the budget “fantastic news.”
“Every member of the Columbus delegation played an important part in this and we appreciate their efforts,” Lester said.
Columbus State funding was caught in a political struggle last year when the university requested about $8 million in the state budget to finish LeNoir Hall and start work on the library expansion. During the 2016 budget process that money evaporated. Rep. Richard Smith said the reason he was given was the battle between state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, Deal and Speaker of the House David Ralston. McKoon has contended it was a political ploy to make him look bad and the money would not be needed until this year.
“I am pleased that the CSU funding has been approved as part of the fiscal year 2018 as I always expected it would be going back to the 2016 legislative session,” McKoon said.
Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, was pleased the funding made it through the budget process.
“CSU continues to grow and we must continue to provide support at the state level,” said Smyre, the dean of the seven-member Columbus delegation. “LeNoir Hall and Schwob Memorial Library are both important and integral in the life of CSU.”
Lester said that funding for such projects is a multiyear process.
“You get the design money the first year, the construction money the second year and the funding for equipment and furnishings the third year,” Lester said.
The start of the library planning renovations was delayed a year because no funding to CSU projects was allocated by the state last year. It did not alter the construction plans for LeNoir Hall because the university had been eying beginning construction early this year.
Now that all of the funding is in place for the LeNoir Hall project, the university will hold a groundbreaking ceremony on April 10 at 11 a.m. Construction is set to begin almost immediately, Lester said. The final piece of the state funding was the $2 million in bond money to furnish the building that was approved on Wednesday.
The LeNoir Hall project is expected to cost about $14 million, with about $12 million from the state and $2 million from private donors.
The cost of the library renovations will be between $6 million and $7 million, Lester said.
“We are going to need a new HVAC system and other equipment,” Lester said. “There is a lot of essential work needed to make sure the building remains functional.”
The library houses the CSU archives and keeping it climate controlled is a priority, Lester said.
Prior to the work on the science lab building and the commitment to begin work on the library, CSU had two recent main campus projects funded by the state.
There was $3.95 million allocated in fiscal year 2014 for the renovation of Howard Hall and $4.95 million in fiscal 2015 for the renovation of Arnold Hall.
Howard Hall was completed in fall 2015 and Arnold Hall was completed last year.