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Evers proposes $1M for UWRF's $111M SciTech project

UW-River Falls would receive planning dollars needed for a new science building under Gov. Tony Evers’ capital budget, which supporters called an encouraging first step.

The university sought $4.25 million in planning funds in the 2019-21 biennium for the for the $111 million building, which would house the biology, chemistry, physics and psychology departments on the grounds where Hagestad Hall currently stands.

The Democratic governor’s funding proposal would allocate $1 million in building trust funds for project design purposes, according to his capital budget, released Thursday, March 7.

“It is an acknowledgment that this project is a priority for our campus with the potential to dramatically impact the experience of our students and provide them and our faculty with more opportunities to engage with each other, as well as spur development of new relationships with external partners and employers,” UWRF Chancellor Dean Van Galen said in a Thursday statement.

The university’s request to specify about $106.7 million in construction funds for the following biennium was not recommended in Evers’ capital budget.

The capital budget now moves on to the Wisconsin Building Commission before it is submitted to the Joint Committee on Finance.

Sen. Jeff Smith, D-Eau Claire, called the funding “a good first step.”

“The governor’s commitment to equipping western Wisconsin for rapidly evolving technological science fields is incredible,” said Smith, whose district includes Pierce County. “I look forward to working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues in the Senate as we work through the budget process.”

Campus leaders unveiled the project in October 2018, saying it would modernize the university’s science offerings, much of which is contained in Centennial Science Hall, now deemed obsolete and outfitted with problematic infrastructure.

The project, named the Science and Technology Innovation Center (SciTech), calls for a new 131,000 square-foot building with 12 laboratories, research spaces and a collaborative space for a university-business innovation partnership program.

“This proposed funding also affirms that SciTech is considered valuable to the state, to the UW System and to citizens in our dynamic region of Wisconsin,” Van Galen said. “The level of economic development and business leader support that we have already obtained regarding this proposed new facility, as well as the support of our faculty, staff and students, is impressive and we know that state funding will contribute to student success and catalyze innovation in one of the most rapidly growing parts of our state.”

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is a regional/enterprise reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage includes St. Croix County government, higher education and state politics in Wisconsin. 

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