DENVER – More funding for a new science building at Fort Lewis College was approved Friday, with disbursements expected Monday.
The second phase of funding for the Geosciences, Physics and Engineering Building amounts to $10.8 million. The money is in addition to $10 million the state approved earlier in the summer.
A third phase of construction funding, estimated at $8 million, is anticipated in the future.
FLC also will have to raise $4 million to complete the project.
“I am ... grateful to the ... state Legislature for seeing that Fort Lewis College is a valuable investment,” said Dene Thomas, FLC president. “This new facility will be great for the educational opportunities of our students and the economic well-being of Southwest Colorado.”
Thomas said the funding would not have gone through if not for the efforts of Durango lawmakers Sen. Ellen Roberts, a Republican, and Rep. Mike McLachlan, a Democrat.
Just when the funding seemed secured after the Legislature’s Capital Development Committee designated FLC as the second-highest priority college construction project this year, the Joint Budget Committee moved in and complicated the process.
Back in March, the JBC stunned officials and Southwest Colorado by bumping FLC and several other projects off the list. The JBC’s move favored college projects in Denver and Colorado Springs, to the ire of many observers.
It seemed impossible that the JBC would undercut the hard work and planning of the Capital Development Committee. So, Roberts, McLachlan and others held strong, pushing for a solution in the state budget that provided funding for the capital development projects.
Now that the state has balanced its books for the 2013-14 budget year, lawmakers have found money left over.
State budget experts Friday presented an estimate of the previous fiscal year’s budget surplus, estimating that the state ended its 2013-14 fiscal year June 30 with a budget surplus of $235.8 million. Fifteen percent of that is destined for capital construction projects at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison and FLC.
“We held our ground in the Senate and got it back to where Fort Lewis would get the money that should never have been in question in the first place,” Roberts said. “But you know how the Legislature works.”
She pointed to the significance of the construction project, highlighting that science programs are booming at the college, especially with focuses on natural resources and energy.
“It was critically important, and they had waited their turn, so I did get pretty involved in it,” she said.
McLachlan also fought for the money, pointing to efforts to secure $25.8 million to renovate Quigley Hall at Western State.
McLachlan is the only representative with two state colleges in his district.
“Hallelujah!” McLachlan said.
“The numbers tell us that we budgeted conservatively and that our economy continues to gain momentum,” he said. “I’m especially pleased that we’ll be able to fund much-needed capital projects at Fort Lewis and Western State, to better serve our students while creating construction jobs in Durango and Gunnison.
“It was really important for the 59th District to be at the table on this conversation,” he said. “I was pleased we were able to put that back onto the economic agenda.”
Demolition was completed this summer to make way for the new, 60,000-square-foot building. Construction is ready to begin and officials expect it will be completed in time for the fall 2016 semester.
“What a great day for Fort Lewis College,” Thomas said. “I am grateful to Sen. Ellen Roberts and Rep. Mike McLachlan for their advocacy of FLC and their help in getting this project funded.”