State education board approves capital projects

Farm Forum

FARGO, N.D. (AP) – The North Dakota Board of Higher Education on September 3 took a $69 million chunk out of its $808 million backlog in deferred maintenance projects, though some members said that’s not enough for a state swimming in profits from energy and other industries.

The board approved more than $200 million in capital projects that chip away at the list of needed repairs and renovations, including a new heating plant at Valley City State and new water and sewer lines at North Dakota State College of Science.

Board member Kevin Melicher, of Fargo, calls the deferred maintenance needs “enormous” and said he believes the state has the ability to fund more of them.

“We have, I would assume, some colleges in the facility department that are not up to the current needs that students want or need when they go to college,” Melicher said. “We want to make sure we have not forgotten some of our existing campuses and make sure that we get those up to speed.”

University of North Dakota science professor Eric Murphy, the board’s faculty adviser, asked Larry Skogen, interim chancellor of the North Dakota University System, whether the deferred maintenance plan was aggressive enough. The list of projects left off the funding list includes a building at North Dakota State University where a lab has no running water.

“Dr. Murphy, there are many of those that should be funded. But, at some point, like creating budgets anywhere, you’ve got to draw a line,” Skogen said.

The new projects include buildings that will house programs to help meet the demand both from the oil boom in western North Dakota and a thriving business and agriculture sector on the east side. There’s a $14 million facility at Williston State College meant to address the shortage in doctors and nurses on the oil patch and an $8 million career and technical education building at Minot State to train workers, also in oil country.

The budget also includes $10 million for the first phase of North Dakota State College of Science’s expansion into Fargo, which is North Dakota’s largest city and needs workers with two-year degrees.

The board also approved 3 percent raises for most of the university presidents. Williston State College President Raymond Nadolny received a 5-percent raise, mainly because of the high cost of living in the oil patch.