San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas


 

by BRAD ROLLINS

Texas State University officials would be authorized to fund most of an $91.6 million Engineering and Sciences Building on Comanche Street under a bill working its way through the Texas Senate.

Under legislation co-authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini the university could sell $83 million in bonds backed by future tuition income to fund the classroom and laboratory building. The bill would also enable the university to borrow $48.8 million for a Health Professions facility at its Round Rock Higher Education Center, which would be its fourth building at the fast-growing Williamson County outpost.

With 122,665 gross square feet — more than 2.8 acres of floor space — the Engineering and Sciences Building in San Marcos would house the Ingram School of Engineering as well as the College of Science’s Biology and Materials Science, Engineering and Commercialization departments.

Michael Petty, the university’s Facilities Planning, Design & Construction director, said the Engineering and Science building’s height will be determined by the slope of the hillside site; high bay area requirements; and how infrastructure limits the building’s design. Consequently, Petty said he does not yet know how many floors it will be. The university’s campus masterplan recommends that new buildings be no more than five floors.

The projected completion target is August 2017.

Since 2012, enrollment in the College of Science and Engineering has grown even faster than the university as a whole. Between 2002 and 2013, science or engineering majors increased from 2,718 to 4,317, a nearly 60 percent increase compared to 45 percent overall.

“If we don’t get this full building, we are in danger of having to cap enrollment at Texas State,” Trauth told senators during an April 11 hearing.

The 31-year-old Campus Colony and 38-year-old Comanche Hills apartments, a careless collection of fading flat-roofed buildings, will be demolished to make room for the newest addition to the San Marcos skyline. The property sits at the corner of Comanche and Woods streets with Vista Street running along its northern edge.

Texas State said it needed an engineering building as far back as its 2006 campus master plan. Officials had hoped to see it funded during the 2011 session. Legislators, however, declined to authorize any tuition revenue bonds for any institutions, putting a defacto statewide freeze on new university improvements, except those already authorized or those funded through other revenue streams.

In January, key legislators such as Senate Higher Education Chair Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and House Higher Education Chair Dan Branch, R-Dallas, said funding campus construction projects would be a priority this time around.

A week ago, the Senate’s Finance Committee unanimously blessed a package of $4.1 billion in construction projects at 58 colleges and universities; Zaffirini’s SB 16 allows the universities to borrow up to $2.4 billion through tuition-revenue bonds; the universities and university systems have to come up with matching funds for the balance of the costs.

If it gains final approval, SB 16 would enable the university to issue tuition revenue bonds for a Health Professions facility at its Round Rock Campus where administrators intend to relocate the university’s entire College of Health Professions. The 87,274 square foot Health Professions facility would be the fourth building at Texas State’s fast-growing Williamson County outpost

This session Texas State requested permission to borrow $56.7 million for a 109,582-square-foot music building where residential Sterry Hall now sits, next to the new parking garage on University Drive. The university also asked for a fifth building at the Round Rock campus. Neither of those projects made it into Zaffirini’s bill.

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