University looks to combat maintenance backlog

Posted: Friday, November 12, 2010

FAIRBANKS - The University of Alaska is hoping for legislative approval to borrow $100 million for a growing list of maintenance and renovation projects that university officials say will continue to expand.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the Board of Regents passed the 2012 capital budget on Tuesday and hopes to chip away at an estimated $2 billion maintenance backlog.

The university is also asking for $82.5 million in state money and another $30 million in federal funding. The Legislature would have to approve the $100 million bond and the request for state dollars.

"We have a huge backlog," said University of Alaska President Pat Gamble. "We're going to go after that backlog in a big way."

The Fairbanks campus, which has the oldest facilities in the system, needs the most work.

The university warned of a "major utility failure" if it doesn't get a $37 million power plant upgrade, and says another $35 million is needed to modernize the electrical distribution system.

That Fairbanks campus is also including sewer line repairs, new coal-fired boilers, upgraded fire sprinklers, roof replacements and a variety of energy conservation measures as part of its capital projects list.

University officials said the school needs about $50 million per year just to keep the list of needed improvements from growing. There are 45 projects on the current list.

Regents also included about $12 million in research funding in its list of capital projects. University officials have said they included the research because they're short-term projects that won't require more than two or three years of funding.

The university also passed a plan for next year's operating budget, albeit without including funding for unionized employees. Five union contracts expire in December.

The school will ask for a state appropriation of about $351 million - a 2.9 percent increase from this year - as part of the overall $885 million budget.

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