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SOU to get $2 million from state

Almost $2 million of the state's $174 million stimulus package — signed into law Thursday afternoon — will flow into Southern Oregon University coffers, enabling the college to shore-up aging campus buildings.

"We're delighted," Larry Blake, director of campus planning and sustainability at SOU, said Thursday after the stimulus package was approved. "These projects are going to really have a tremendous impact on the campus, and they're projects that probably would have taken us several years to get funding for otherwise."

Under the proposal, SOU will get $1.93 million for deferred maintenance projects, which will help create jobs in Southern Oregon, said Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland and co-chair of the Ways and Means Committee.

"I think it's an excellent use of an available tool that the state government has to have an impact during rough economic times," he said Thursday. "These deferred maintenance projects have been delayed for far too long and the benefit to the university and the benefit to the community is clear."

Legislators trimmed some small maintenance projects from the previously $175 million stimulus plan to come up with the package that passed in the Oregon House of Representatives Thursday and was signed into law by the Governor later that day.

SOU will immediately start creating plans to replace roofs, upgrade elevators and modernize classrooms and will do most of the construction this summer, Blake said.

The university plans to use all of the funding this year, to help stimulate the local economy, he added.

"All of the contractors and general contractors are pretty hungry right now and if they don't have work to keep their crews busy then they lay people off, and that contributes to the unemployment in the state. We depend on these contractors and subcontractors, so it's not in our best interest to see some of them fold up and disappear," he said.

About $610,000 of the funds will go to replace the roofs at Central Hall, McNeal Pavilion, the theater building and the music building. SOU will also receive $200,000 to modernize the Churchill Hall classrooms and about $54,000 to upgrade elevators at Churchill Hall and the Education/Psychology building.

The college will start a few projects — those that involve upgrading fire alarms, lighting and other minor improvements — before the school year ends, Blake said.

The Oregon Department of Transportation will also receive nearly $50,000 from the stimulus package to work on deferred maintenance in Ashland.

Rogue Community College in Medford will receive $4 million in bond funding from the stimulus bills.

Now that the Oregon stimulus package has passed, state legislators and university officials have their eyes on Washington. Many hope that if a federal stimulus package is approved, it will also include funds for some of the $500 million in deferred maintenance projects at Oregon universities, Buckley said.

"We're set up for any federal money that may come our way. We are poised and ready," he said.

Staff writer Hannah Guzik can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.