Legislature examines buildings for Weber State, juvenile court

Feb 2 2013 - 11:36pm

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Two capital projects in Weber County, with a combined price tag of $90.1 million, drew the attention Friday of a legislative committee charged with oversight of state building projects.

Officials from Weber State University made a pitch for $60.8 million in funding for a new science lab building and were followed about 20 minutes later by officials from the state court system who are asking for $29.3 million for a new juvenile court facility in Ogden.

The committee reviewed five different projects during the session. Legislators are expected to take most of the 45-day session to flesh out what projects are funded.

Financial projections from state analysts are expected on Feb. 19 and the budget process is expected to accelerate at that point.

WSU President Charles Wight and business entrepreneur Alan Hall, who is also chairman of the Weber State Board, asked state lawmakers for funding for the new building, suggesting a new 200,000-square-foot facility would help the university meet future needs as well as replace a building that has some structural and safety problems.

Wight told legislators the new facility is a sizeable funding request, but fills a significant need. WSU is asking the state to potentially fund $60.8 million of the $65.8 million project.

The project shared a top ranking among school needs on a Board of Regents priority list, along with Utah Valley University's bid for a 200,000-square-foot classroom/office building. The WSU project ranked No. 7 on a state capital development project list.

"We know our request is a big request, but it also fulfills a big need," Wight said.

One project ahead of WSU on the state capital list is the Ogden court, which ranked No. 1. Alyn Lunceford, facilities director for the Utah Judicial Council, explained a litany of problems associated with the building from safety to logistical issues and said the project has been on the state radar for more than seven years.

In 2008 the Legislature provided funding to buy property for the courthouse and in 2012 provided $1.6 million for design work.

The current juvenile court building at 444 26th St. was built in the 1980s and is outdated, Lunceford. said. He said the three courtrooms in the building are small and insufficient.

The Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, which conducted the hearing, has two local representatives. Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, is co-chair of the group and Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, is a member.

Froerer said one of the impressive elements of the WSU pitch is the local support for the project.

Hall and a relative have pledged $5 million toward the building project and the venture capitalist told committee members they hope to raise additional funds.

This marks the second year Weber State officials have pitched the new building.

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