Wisconsin Seeking $2.4B for Building Projects

By: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MADISON – Gov. Tony Evers wants to spend $2.4 billion on building upgrades across Wisconsin – nearly half of which would be spent on University of Wisconsin System campuses.

The plan would give $1 billion to the UW System for building projects, spend $163 million on a new state office building in Milwaukee and create a $45 million juvenile correctional facility that would trigger the closure of the state’s long-troubled youth prison.

In all, Evers is proposing projects in 31 of the state’s 72 counties.

“The capital budget is an investment in the up-keep of our infrastructure for longevity and public safety and in the future we want to build for our state,” Evers said in a statement.

The Democratic governor’s proposed capital budget – which spends money on brick-and-mortar projects as opposed to programs – is about the same size as his first proposal after taking office, which was ultimately cut by Republicans by about $600 million .

Budget committee co-chairman Sen. Howard Marklein , R- Spring Green , said the governor delivered another “wish list.”

“There are some projects that are necessary, but there are also some projects that require careful consideration and thought,” he said in a statement. “2020 was a transformational year. The way we work, learn and live has changed. Our capital priorities must take this into account.”

Evers’ budget includes $150 million for repair and replacement work on UW facilities and utilities that are near failure or failing.

The proposed spending would also be used to keep buildings up to code in terms of safety and environmental protections, to reconfigure spaces for new or changing program offerings and to invest in special equipment for classrooms, labs and online learning.

“We greatly appreciate the investment in our infrastructure Governor Evers calls for in his proposed capital budget,” UW System interim President Tommy Thompson said Monday. “It will allow UW System to make some long-needed improvements that will enhance learning, teaching and research – serving our students and the state of Wisconsin .”

For repair and renovation projects that exceed the funding limits of the $150 million program, the governor also proposed just over $100 million for several high-priority facilities renewal projects that include the restoration of UW-Milwaukee’s Great Lakes Research Facility’s dock wall, two heating and chilling plant boiler replacements at UW-Parkside, and several fire suppression system upgrades on UW-Madison’s campus.

The budget also includes about $31.7 million to upgrade classrooms, lecture halls, labs and other core instructional spaces across the UW System.

Among the major UW System building projects proposed in Evers’ capital budget:

A $150 million plan to replace UW-Madison’s Computer Aided Engineering Facility.

An $88.4 million plan to demolish two UW-Madison residence halls and build a new academic building for the university’s ethnic studies programs.

A $27 million plan to renovate the Clow Hall/Nursing Education Building complex at UW-Oshkosh.

An $11.4 million plan to renovate the west tower of Sandburg Hall at UW-Milwaukee.

A $59.4 million plan to renovate UW-Whitewater’s Winther Hall and Heide Hall .

A $116.7 million plan to construct a new science and technology innovation center at UW-River Falls .

A $96.3 million plan to construct a multi-use technology and education center at UW-Green Bay .

A $96 million plan to replace UW-Stevens Point’s Albertson Hall .

Among the major building projects Evers deferred is UW-Milwaukee’s $74.8 million request to renovate portions of its Northwest Quadrant for its College of Health Sciences . UWM has been waiting years to renovate more of the old Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital complex.

The spending plan also revives a stalled plan to close the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls , a youth prison north of Wausau that lawmakers voted in 2018 to close after years of assaults on staff and teen inmates.

Evers wants to spend $45 million on a new juvenile facility in Milwaukee County for 32 teen offenders and another $70 million on a juvenile treatment center at Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison .

The governor’s capital budget also begins construction of a 200,000-square-foot state office building planned for a largely vacant site on Milwaukee’s near west side.

The bipartisan State of Wisconsin Building Commission unanimously approved the purchase of the development site and the preparation of that site for future construction. But it’s unclear whether the GOP -controlled state Legislature will approve the project at its recommended cost. The budget-writing committee removed the project from Evers’ 2019-21 capital budget.

Evers recommended having the state provide $40 million for the proposed Wisconsin Museum of Nature and Culture , which is to be the combined home of the Milwaukee Public Museum and Betty Brinn Children’s Museum . The state aid would help fund the massive project, which is expected to cost $240 million to purchase the site, build the new museum and relocate the museum collections, according to the state.

Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.

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