IU is proposing that $235 million be appropriated from Indiana’s state government to finance various construction projects as part of a state budget proposal for 2021.
The majority of the money requested will go to renovations and rehabilitation projects, said Thomas Morrison, vice president for capital planning and facilities. These capital projects, which don’t include housing or athletic facilities, are introduced and considered by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education every two years. Ultimately, the Indiana general assembly decides which projects to fund.
Morrison said these projects will start in about 2022, if IU is given the money for the projects in 2021.
Morrison said it is possible the state will not award as much money in years past because of COVID-19. However, if the projects that the university has included this year are not funded this time, they will move to the top of the list the next time the university makes a request.
“The state cannot invest in every single project that we might request,” Morrison said. “We stick to our priorities and what our immediate needs are.”
Certain parts of the budget have been dedicated to larger short-term projects, such as the renovation of the School of Public Health.
This renovation, which will cost about $65 million, includes replacing windows, adding air conditioning to portions of the building, adding accessibility for people with disabilities and removing asbestos, Morrison said. David Allison, dean of IU’s School of Public Health-Bloomington, said the renovation will also include updated labs, such as those used to conduct randomized control trials.
Allison said the facility improvements will help the school conduct more and better trials and overall assist the school in research and learning.
“You don’t do good science if you don’t have the good tools for good science,” Allison said.
Allison said contributing to public health and this school specifically is important now because of COVID-19. Science-based methods, such as those conducted by the School of Public Health, can be used to figure out things such as the effectiveness of lockdowns, Allison said.
“Never before has the importance of our two schools of public health at Indiana University been more profound and palpable,” Allison said.
Another one of the bigger projects included in the budget is the construction of a new building adjacent to the Methodist hospital site for IU Health for IU School of Medicine’s Indianapolis location. The project is similar to the one recently completed in Bloomington where a hospital was built adjacent to the school, except about three times larger, Morrison said. A third of the money required for the project, $75 million, is coming from the budget. The other two thirds has been raised by IU.
A portion of the budget is also dedicated to routine maintenance. Some of the small routine renovation projects include roofs, windows, fire alarms and elevator repairs. The university maintains more than 800 buildings on all of its campuses. Morrison said a lot of money goes into routine maintenance of those buildings and the equipment inside them, such as air conditioning and boilers, Morrison said.
Morrison said sometimes it is hard for people to recognize some of this work because so much of it is behind the scenes. However, in order to maintain the buildings many people consider to be fixtures of IU's campuses, it’s important to spend money on things such as replacing equipment before it starts to malfunction.