Columbus State science lab building funded in state budget

Columbus State University received nearly $12 million in the state budget that was passed late Tuesday night by the Georgia House and Senate, but it was less than what the university was seeking.

When the General Assembly session started, the Board of Regents, which governs the University System of Georgia, recommended $17.4 million for two construction projects on CSU’s main campus. When the budget passed, the university only received $11.8 million.

John Lester, CSU’s assistant vice president for university relations, said that is enough to complete one project.

“It is better than where we were, but it is not what we wanted,” he said. “That said, we are thrilled to have been included in the budget.”

CSU plans to use the funds to build a new science lab near Lenoir Hall and perform major renovations on the front of the library. With the money allotted, the university will likely build the new science lab building first.

“There was a private match to that project,” Lester said. “We are planning to put around $2 million with it.”

That would make the science lab a $14 million project.

Throughout the three-month legislative session, the CSU money went up and down in drafts of the budget. At one point, it had been cut to about $6 million.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, a Columbus Democrat who chairs the local delegation, said he was not sure why the money was cut when the budget came out of a House/Senate conference committee on Tuesday.

“I was going to ask one of the budget writers that, but I have not been able to do that yet,” he said. “My guess is it probably has something to do with the bonds or the design and construction. But I have been told they are committed to the projects.”

In the final hours of approving a budget, some things get cut, Smyre said.

“Sometimes you have to bite off a couple of projects to make the number,” he said.

In other news, Smyre said the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center received $500,000 in the budget.

“That’s a pretty good lick because the state has lost the appetite to fund museums over the years and it is not even a state museum,” he said.

Smyre and other Columbus lawmakers were working to get $1 million for the museum, which opened in 2009. The National Infantry Foundation, which oversees the museum, is in a $20 million fundraising drive, half of which will be used to retire the remaining debt.

The other $10 million will be used for a list of projects that include a memorial to the War on Terrorism and converting the IMAX theater to an all-purpose theater, said National Infantry Foundation Board Chairman Carmen Cavezza.

The fiscal 2015-2016 budget still has to be signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.