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SOU would benefit from state renovation package

ASHLAND ' Renovation of three Southern Oregon University buildings could be in the cards if lawmakers and voters approve a proposal for &

36;500 million in state bonds to repair and upgrade buildings at the state's seven universities.

More than half the square footage on university campuses was built between 1960 and 1975. Without refurbishing, many buildings could become prematurely obsolete, said Grattan Kerans, the university system's legislative director. A vote wouldn't come until 2004.

SOU could expect about &

36;25 million of the amount if the idea gains approval, said Bruce Moats, director of the physical plant. Work would include roof repair, plumbing, wiring, energy-saving heating and air conditioning, and interior and exterior finishes.

The system did a study five years ago with a consultant to get our arms around how bad the problem was in terms of dollars, said Moats. This approach gives a snapshot of what you need today and also forecasts for a couple of decades ahead.

Three buildings would be totally renovated, with one building at a time shut down. No campus can afford to shut down everything at one fell swoop, said Moats.

Britt Hall, built in 1937, would be the first in line for renovation. It houses the registrar and admissions centers and communication department faculty. Cost is estimated at &

36;4 million.

McNeil Pavilion, the 100,000-square-foot athletic and physical education facility, would be second. Repairs are estimated at &

36;6 million. Air conditioning would be installed in the main gym to increase summer use. The swimming pool would be renovated.

Churchill Hall, built 72 years ago, would be third. Renovation would cost about &

36;3.5 million. The building houses administrative offices. We'd get rid of the central steam heating system and outdated wiring. It needs central air condition, said Moats.

Four of five boilers that generate heat need to be replaced. The boilers date from the mid-1960s. Welding repairs have extended their life. Wholesale replacement has to happen in the next decade, said Moats.

The proposal requires an amendment to the state constitution, which currently has no provision for higher education bonds that are wholly repaid through state revenue.

Lawmakers would refer the constitutional amendment to voters in the May 2004 primary election. Companion legislation, Senate Bill 240, sets up the statutory authority allowing the higher education board to sell the bonds.

With the state still struggling with an ailing economy and shrinking tax revenue, questions about the timing of the measure are likely. But Kerans noted that no bond payments would be needed in the 2003-05 biennium, so the measure wouldn't have an impact until the 2005-07 budget year.

Reach Ashland bureau reporter Tony Boom at 482-4651, or e-mail