Hill Hall

By the beginning of February, all University of Wyoming employees housed in Wyoming Hall are slated to move into Hill Hall, seen here. Last week, UW trustees approved for Wyoming Hall to be demolished at a cost of no more than $2.7 million.

Last week, the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees gave administrators a budget of $33.4 million to move forward with a number of construction projects related to the planned re-vamping of the university’s dormitories.

Almost half of that funding is budgeted for the least glamorous project: $14.9 million to relocate utilities on the northeast corner of campus to accommodate the demolition of Wyoming Hall and construction of new dorms on that section of campus.

That price tag was a little daunting for trustees, but they ultimately opted to move forward with all utility relocations after administrators said it would cost more in the long-run to delay any of that work.

Trustees approved for administrators to have Wyoming Hall demolished at a cost no more than $2.7 million.

A budget of $13 million was also approved for the construction, excluding “soft costs,” of a new parking garage on the north side of Grand Avenue, between 10th and 11th streets.

According to the trustees’ directive, the parking garage should have a minimum of 400 parking spots.

The parking garage is planned to compensate for the loss of parking spots along the west side of 15th Street that’s expected to occurred as dorms are built over the coming years.

To plan for that construction, UW also plans to move its fleet services and bus maintenance from its site at the corner of 14th and Lewis streets.

The trustees have approved a budget of $2.8 million for the administration to begin moving its transportation services to a new facility on South 15th Street — the former site of First Choice Honda, which had leased the university property.

To accommodate that move, the trustees approved a $98,980 contract with a Cody firm, Plan One Architects, to design the new bus maintenance and storage facility.

UW plans to move fleet services this fall, which should free up 156 parking stalls to compensate for the loss of parking north of Wyoming Hall, which is slated for demolition this year.

All employees currently working in Wyoming Hall are expected to be moved to the recently renovated Hill Hall by the beginning of February.

Some of the funding that trustees budgeted for last week is ultimately likely to be reimbursed through the issuance of new bonds, which are planned to fund the bulk of the new dorms construction.

Bill Mai, interim vice president for administration, said there’s a “significant chance” that grant funding could reimburse the university’s costs to move its transit services to South 15th Street.

In the meantime, trustees are funding those projects largely through its reserve accounts. Before voting to move forward with the $33.4 million budget, UW had $19.2 million in capital construction reserves, $12.8 million in residence hall reserves and $45 million in general university reserves.

UW architect Matt Newman said that administrators are “90% done with a programming document” that will outline administrators’ expectations for new housing and dining.

However, before trustees approve any more budgets for dorms and dining construction, Trustee John McKinley asked administrators to identify revenue streams that can be used to pay down the university’s bond debt over the next few decades. McKinley chairs the trustees’ budget and facilities contracting committees.

It’s likely that UW will issue more than $100 million in new bond debt, and McKinley expressed skepticism that the students’ room-and-board fees will be sufficient to pay down the principal and interest of the amount of bond debt UW officials have considered incurring.

“I’m not ready to authorize any further expenditures on housing and dining because we don’t have a budget, and the numbers do not appear to be realistic to me at this point in time,” he said.

In 2019, the Legislature passed a law that was aimed at providing a funding mechanism to move the dorms construction forward, including a $88 million loan for the university to defease its current bond debt.

However, UW officials aren’t keen on using that loan based on the current repayment terms enumerated in the law.

Trustee Kermit Brown also noted that the law, H.B. 293, didn’t account for some of the necessary costs, like the demolition of Wyoming Hall and the relocation of utilities.

“When the Legislature did the math, all they calculated was the bonding capacity that they had to give us … but we don’t have the cash flow to service it,” he said.

(6) comments

jevodoc159@4tmail.net

I'm not a fan of this demolition and I fail to see why they had to demolish an office building to build a dorm when there are good dorms along Grand that could be renovated to create a whole community for students right next to the classrooms on campus. And the disruption caused by demolition for parking and getting around? What is the justification? Do we already have the students to fill these dorms? Or are we building for customers we don't even have?

zcook42

They are ultimately aiming at replacing the old dorms, which are currently very near capacity, and adding a little bit of extra capacity in the process. They just happened to decide on the most horrible, poorly-planned, inefficient and most costly way to accomplish that. They apparently don't even know how they are actually going to pay for it, but they are doing it anyway.

Oh Wow

Agree... good dorms on Grand that they spent like, 5 years renovating. I understand the dorm situation needs addressed. Do not understand taking staff space, displacing them, taking parking, demolishing a building for millions of dollars, disrupting a main artery of the city (15th) all for something that they haven't completely justified.

zcook42

“When the Legislature did the math, all they calculated was the bonding capacity that they had to give us … but we don’t have the cash flow to service it,” he said.

See, that sounds like a concern that should have been raised BEFORE authorizing the demolition of a building, relocating everyone in it, paying millions of dollars to move all the critical utilities that converge under that building and just generally the spending of a majority of the University's Reserve funding... What in the actual?? They are DOING this project. They are securing contractors, moving people around, are less than a month away from testing down a building, Millions have already been spent with millions more now locked and loaded but they are just NOW realizing that they can't actually afford to pay for this project... The level of incompetence with this board is just totally off the charts. This is unbelievably moronic..

TheReplacement

Actually UW knew it all along. They're counting on no one noticing. They will default on the bond interest payments and then come to the taxpayers for the bailout. Future enrollments can not be sustained due to demographics. It's simple arithmetic and UW knows it. The dorm construction is a last gasp to draw the out-of-staters that the UW is so dependent on.

Oh Wow

I can't even with this project. What is this huge rush to demolish a perfectly fine building, displacing the hundreds of employees in it, spending millions to knock it down and millions to build a dorm??? I don't understand why they're so intent on doing this. They don't listen to staff or even students who don't want this (nicer dorms, absolutely - on campus dorms , not so much). They just steamroll through with this, spending a ton of money to do it; and yet when it comes to giving staff raises that are more than to just 2%, they suddenly can't find the money. BS. Unbelievable. This will get shoved down everyone's throats, the dorm will be built but they won't increase enrollment because of it and then think 'we spent this money and it didn't work to increase enrollment' so securing funding for legitimate projects will be harder in the future.

Staff who speak their minds are being silenced and/or ignored. It's an ugly situation; they're going to (and are) lose a LOT of long time staff members who have made the institution grow to the successful institution that it is (which grows enrollment.... but sure, lets build shiny buildings to lure students... smh) and this is something that will take a long time to recover from.

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