Finance & Commerce: Minnesota State system seeks $243M for buildings

By: Brian Johnson September 22, 2017 7:02 am

The Normandale Community College in Bloomington is fighting an ongoing battle with rain
water, which runs from an inner courtyard on the campus into a tunnel area where students
walk back and forth between classes.

“When it rains, we get water coming down the [tunnel] walls and paint is coming off the walls,”
said Brian Yolitz, assistant vice chancellor for facilities at the Minnesota State college system,
formerly known as Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. If the leakage isn’t fixed, it could
lead to other problems ranging from mold to structural damage, he said.

Minnesota State hopes to address the problem, and a host of other building upkeep needs,
with a $130 million investment in asset preservation. It’s the biggest part of Minnesota State’s
$243 million 2018 capital request, approved by the system’s Board of Trustees earlier this year.
Of that total, $193 million would come from state bonding and the rest from Minnesota State.

Despite the needs, Minnesota State and other institutions face an uphill battle in their requests
for limited state funding from the Legislature.

In all, the system’s 2018 capital request would improve 500,000 square feet of building space,
replace 75,000 square feet of obsolete space, reduce deferred maintenance needs by $56
million, and improve more than 230 classrooms and labs.

The University of Minnesota system is also seeking a record $200 million for asset preservation,
and other state agencies are playing catch‐up.

“This is a bigger issue than the Minnesota State system, and it’s bigger than higher ed,” Yolitz
said. “It’s a state of Minnesota issue.”

Besides asset preservation, Minnesota State wants $22.5 million to replace Hagg‐Sauer Hall at
Bemidji State University, and $22.85 million to knock down and replace the Memorial and Plaza
halls at Rochester Community and Technical College, among other projects.

The needs have been apparent for some time. A couple of years ago, a piece of the ceiling fell
on a student in a classroom at the Rochester college, Yolitz noted. The student wasn’t hurt, but
it was an “embarrassing” situation, he said.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, the Grove City Republican who chairs the House Capital Investment
Committee, expects 2018 state bonding requests to exceed funding by $3 billion to $4 billion.

Urdahl said Thursday that the committee has toured some of the Minnesota State facilities,
with more visits to come. Urdahl said committee members have seen “a lot of leaky roofs,”
which would fall under the category of asset preservation.

“Certainly HEAPR [Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement] needs should be a
priority,” Urdahl said in an interview. “That is the No. 1 priority of Minnesota State and we will
give that due consideration. I don’t know how much money we are going to put into it at this

The Minnesota State system serves 375,000 students on 54 campuses, which encompass 843
academic buildings, 2,250 classrooms, 1,625 labs and 301 acres of roofs, according to its capital
request. In all, the system maintains 28 million square feet of space.

Much of that space is going through a mid‐life crisis. In its capital request, Minnesota State says
the majority of its buildings and systems were built between 1965 and 1975, and are less
efficient than newer structures.

Many have “run the gamut of their useful life,” Yolitz said.

“We are seeing our buildings age, and with that comes the need to do more and more work on
them,” he said. “In the past, asset preservation hasn’t kept up with our needs.”

Minnesota State’s HEAPR request would cover everything from roofs to health and safety fixes.
About 40 percent of the request would go to roof repairs, Yolitz said.

Anoka‐Ramsey Community College and Anoka Technical College need $7 million for electrical,
HVAC and roof improvements. Another $8.1 million would go to Century College in White Bear
Lake for exteriors and roofs, according to Minnesota State documents.

Other 2018 asset preservation projects are pending at Alexandria Technical & Community
College ($8.1 million), Bemidji State University ($5.4 million), Central Lakes College ($7.5
million), Hennepin Technical College ($4 million), Inver Hills Community College ($5.9 million)
and Lake Superior College ($6 million), among other campuses.