Ding Dong Bell
The new Bell museum project is effectively dead.
Funding for a new Bell Museum of Natural History was absent from the House version of the bonding bill as state representatives introduced the $200 million spending bill Monday. Under the House bill, the University would receive $20 million in Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) funding for general repair projects on campus. The Senate’s bonding bill appropriated $35 million in HEAPR funds to the University.
The House bill was presented before the Capital Investment Finance Division on Monday and will be voted on by the committee today.
“The easiest thing in the world is to write a big bill,” Hausman said before a House committee Monday. “The greater challenge is writing one that is smaller because you still have to look at it from a statewide perspective, and you still have to be fair.”
Addressing the $39.5 million Bell Museum project directly, Hausman said she called Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office Friday to get the administration’s perspective on the project. She said she was told the project is too similar to other institutions in the state.
“I was told that they believe this is duplicative of what the [Minnesota] Zoo and the Science Museum are doing,” she said.
“I know there are many very disappointed people, and I’m one of them,” Hausman said. “A $200 million bill done fairly for the entire state is not easy to arrive at.”
Bell Museum Executive Director Susan Weller also said she was disappointed, though she said after the committee meeting that she understood Hausman’s approach to the bill.
Should the funding not pass this year, Peterson said it was up to University President Bob Bruininks and the Board of Regents to decide whether or not to propose it before the Legislature next session. Weller said last week that Bruininks had told her it would not be a priority next year.
This development should come as no surprise to OurAdministration, given what appeared in the Daily on 11/30/08:
A request of about $26 million for the construction for a new Bell Museum is one of the main items the University will be requesting from the Legislature this session, Vice President of University Services Kathleen O’Brien said.
“There’s going to be some tough financial decisions to be made this session,” [State Legislator Tom] Rukavina said. “I think everything is back on the table, even the bonding proposals that have been passed.”
Rukavina said his major concerns going into the session are getting funding for repairs of Folwell Hall and working with the University so tuition doesn’t spike too high.
[State Senator Sandra] Pappas is a proponent of repairing existing facilities at universities, not necessarily building new ones, when the state’s economy is under duress.
“If they want money for the Bell Museum, I don’t know how that will fair [sic],” Pappas said. “I think it’s more likely that we would give repair or replacement dollars.”
What is really telling is the concession by President Bruininks that the Bell would not be a priority next year. Maybe it never should have been in the first place?