UM Plans Robust Infrastructure Investments

February 27, 2020

A conceptual rendering of the proposed forestry, conservation and science lab teaching complex for the UM campusMISSOULA – The University of Montana will seek funding during the 2021 session of the Montana Legislature for safety upgrades, building renovations and new construction.

Proposed projects have been submitted to the Montana University System Board of Regents for the state’s long-range building program (LRBP) in preparation for the 67th session of the Legislature. The Regents will learn about the proposals for the Montana University System when members meet March 5-6 at UM-Western in Dillon.

Paul Lasiter, UM vice president for operations and finance, said UM is embarking on a new period of investment in facilities and student-service capabilities.

Several funding sources will be used for these investments, Lasiter said, which will include safety upgrades such as lighting, emergency phones and electronic locks, as well as renovations to residence halls and a new dining facility. Renovations to UM’s Music Building and construction of a new forestry, conservation and science lab teaching complex are proposed.

UM also will invest in a combined heat and power upgrade for the campus. The University will use funds from its recent bond sale, private philanthropy and the two components of the state LRBP program: deferred maintenance and repair and capital investment projects.

 “Funding for many of our proposed projects is in hand, and work can begin as soon as we have approval from the Board of Regents,” Lasiter said. “For other projects, once we have the proper approvals, we’ll proceed as funding from the Legislature and from philanthropic support becomes available.”

The renovations proposed for the Music Building anticipate a mix of LRBP funds, private philanthropy and funding from UM’s debt restructure. The University is requesting $6 million in spending authority and $1.5 million in infrastructure repairs for the Music Building through the LRBP.

John DeBoer, interim dean of UM’s College of the Arts and Media, said music students have actively voiced support for a renovation to their building.

“Last fall, the campus was surveyed about key areas for investment to promote student success, and our students, faculty and staff were very vocal about the needs in the Music Building,” DeBoer said. “The Music Building has not seen significant renovation since it opened in 1953, and we are excited about these critical improvements.”

The proposed forestry, conservation and science lab teaching complex would be a new facility. Current plans call for state-of-the-art research and teaching laboratories, as well as teaching spaces and faculty offices.

“This facility will benefit virtually every student on campus,” said Jenny McNulty, interim dean of UM’s College of Humanities &   Sciences. “The labs, classrooms and other learning spaces will create incredible opportunities for interdisciplinary studies and research.”

While plans are preliminary, key design components would include mass timber construction and other green building standards.

“We’re planning a building that showcases sustainability, innovation and scientific discovery, which befits a university with our reputation for excellence in forestry and conservation,” said Tom DeLuca, dean of the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation.

Specific details about the building, including overall size, design and campus location, will emerge as the planning process continues.

“We are encouraged by support from the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, which will forward the forestry, conservation and science lab teaching complex as its top new construction priority,” DeLuca said.

Montana’s 67th Legislature will convene in Helena on Jan. 4, 2021.

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Contact: Paula Short, UM Strategic Communications spokesperson, 406-243-4023, paula.short@umontana.edu.