Legislation question funding for new building

Nate Billings

Recently, legislation has Missouri Southern wondering about a new building on campus.

The health sciences building would combine the departments of nursing, respiratory therapy, radiology, dental hygiene, kinesiology and psychology into one building. The departments would still be separate departments, but would work together in one setting.

“We’ve been trying to get this building for quite some time,” said University President Julio León. “It’s been 10 years in fact.”

The building would require the Missouri legislation to help with funding. The funding was approved in 2001, but the source of the funding has been in question since then.

“The governor at the time decided to use the money to help resolve the recession,” León said.

In January, Gov. Matt Blunt approved the Lewis and Clark Initiative, which would provide state education institutions with a total of $450 million through the sale of loan assets.

The loan assets come from the Missouri Higher Educational Loan Authority. Of that money, Southern would receive $12 million to help provide the new building.

Dr. Terri Agee, vice president for business affairs, said the building would cost $19 million based on earlier estimates.

The funding requires Southern to provide a 20-percent match.

“We’re waiting to see how it would all add up,” she said.

The question of the funding arose in the Missouri House of Representatives and the Missouri Senate where two different versions of the bill providing the money came to pass.

The bills differ on how the money should be sent through the state. However, there is also a legal disruption with the MOHELA meeting, which provided the monies for the state.

“Can the state really sell these loans,” León said. “They may have been in violation of the Sunshine Law.”

The Sunshine Law states government and public organizations must post their meeting times, places and possible changes within 24 hours of the actual meeting. The MOHELA meeting to decide whether or not to sell the loan assets was held behind closed doors.

León and Agee said the matter will be resolved by the end of the legislative session, but in the meantime, Southern must wait.

“There is the strong possibility we will get the money,” León said. “Politically, they’ll just have to solve the problem.”

The building, when built, is planned for the space between Hearnes Hall and Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.

“The health sciences building would provide a facility that would allow students to learn within an interactive environment that fosters collaboration among health disciplines so our graduates continue to provide exceptional patient care,” Agee said.

She said the building will be approximately 750,000 square feet and four-stories high. This would make it one of the most prominent buildings on campus.

León said the only policy for Southern is to simply wait.

“I understand it,” he said. “It’s natural that there’s going to be disagreements [dash] especially with money.”

The legislative session ends in May.