Western eyes help for capital projects

Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Emily Mentzer
February 4th, 2014

MONMOUTH — Western Oregon University has requested money from the state to help with two capital improvement projects: $1.4 million for the College of Education, and $5 million to $8.1 million for the Oregon Military Academy building.

The $1.4 million request for the College of Education was money originally planned as the university’s match for a general obligation bond, said Eric Yahnke, vice president for finance and administration.

“We had initially planned to raise it with philanthropy (donations),” he said.

Because of Senate Bill 270 and the uncertainty that had surrounded Western’s future, donations have not been forthcoming.

“It’s really had a chilling effect on our donors’ willingness to step up,” Yahnke said.

Last week, WOU President Mark Weiss said the university will pursue an independent board of trustees, but up until then, it was unclear what would become of the university’s governance.

Other options included a joint board with Western, Oregon Institute of Technology, Eastern Oregon University and Southern Oregon University; or Western could become a remote campus for another state institution, most likely Oregon State University.

Plans for the new College of Education building is the first in the state as a project under an executive order promoting innovative use of wood products.

The cost of the 59,000-square-foot building is $18.6 million, which will now come entirely from state funded bonds, should the state agree to Western’s request.

The building will be constructed on the open lawn space between the Hamersly Library and the Oregon Military Academy building, and would house all of the university’s education students and programs under one roof.

The Oregon Military Academy building is on land owned by Western, Yahnke said.

“We lease it to the Oregon Military Department,” he said. The OMD owns the building.

According to an Oregon State Board of Higher Education agenda docket, the OMD wants to leave the facility and has appraised it at $8.1 million.

The building has barrack-style living quarters on the second floor and classrooms on the first, Yahnke said. Currently, about a third of Western’s students will take a class in the building each year.

“Our thoughts are to use it as a live-learn facility,” he said. “It wouldn’t take much to convert (the second floor) to student living space.”

The building already has a cafeteria and general facilities that would be ideal for Western’s use, he said.

“The upside of the project is that it also benefits another state agency in that it allows the Oregon Military Department to move ahead with their strategic mission,” Yahnke said, adding that any renovations would cost much less than building new.

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