Science Initiative

Construction continues this month on the $100 million Science Initiative building on the northwest corner of the University of Wyoming's campus.

A bill that would have required approval from the Legislature for the University of Wyoming to expend more than $1.5 million on any construction project has failed.

Tuesday was the deadline for the bill, House Bill 95, to be brought up for a first reading vote, but House Majority Leader Eric Barlow pushed H.B. 95 toward the bottom of the list of bills to be considered. Ultimately, House leaders adjourned the Tuesday session shortly before 11 p.m. without bringing the bill for a vote, despite the fact that it was approved 7-0 by the House Appropriations Committee and was co-sponsored by Speaker of the House Steve Harshman, R-Casper.

Last week, UW Trustee Kermit Brown predicted that “there’s going to be some action on (H.B. 95) which will be favorable to UW.”

The former legislator said during a conference call with trustees last week that H.B. 95 was “the most important bill that’s hanging out there.”

“It would create an unburdenable situation for UW,” he said.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Tom Walters, R-Casper, and co-sponsored by six members of the Joint Appropriations Committee, including the committee’s co-chairman, Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton.

H.B. 95 would’ve required legislative approval of every expenditure of more than $1.5 million on “any public building and all works and facilities necessary for the planning, construction and utilization of a state owned public building.”

The bill would’ve explicitly precluded UW from spending more than $1.5 million “for the constructing, maintaining, operating or equipping of any capital construction project, including any acquisition or purchase of facilities related to a capital construction project, unless the expenditure was authorized by the legislature.”

On Feb. 11, the House voted 57-2 to have the bill considered, and the House Appropriations Committee voted the bill up on Feb. 17.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, UW had contended that “this bill would delay project approval and project completion, and result in an expenditure increase due to construction cost inflation.”

“Assuming a current cost of construction inflation of 6% per year, the University estimates a biennial impact of around $2 million in increased construction costs, based on projects over the last 2 years,” the fiscal note states. “The University also anticipates an increase in costs due to the inability to quickly react in cases of major equipment or main distribution utility failure and the inability to take advantage of economies of scale to address maintenance items.”

Currently, UW regulations require the trustees to approve any construction or maintenance expenditure greater than $500,000.

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