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New science hall at UW-Eau Claire voted in by state budget writing committee

Madison (WQOW) — The state’s budget writing committee is finalizing its spending plan for the next two years and that plan will include a new science hall at UW-Eau Claire.

Tuesday, the Joint Finance Committee officially voted on including a replacement for Philips Hall in the budget.

As News 18 reported, Governor Tony Evers (D-WI) had included the project as part of his capital budget, but that entire budget was voted down by Republicans in March.

However, a bipartisan group of local lawmakers continued to push for the project. Republican representatives Warren Petryk, Jesse James, Treig Pronschinske, Romaine Quinn and Rob Summerfield, as well as Democrats Sen. Jeff Smith and Rep. Jodi Emerson sent a letter to the Joint Finance Committee asking that the project be included in the budget.

UW-Eau Claire Assistant Chancellor for Facilities and University Relations Mike Rindo told News 18 it costs more than $530,000 to operate Philips Hall per year, because of its age. Rindo said it would cost $256 million to replace the nearly 60 year old science building.

The proposed budget includes $109 million for the first phase of the project and another $1 million for advanced planning for the second phase.

UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt weighed in on the vote Tuesday night, saying: “We are grateful for the support shown for this project by the Joint Committee on Finance. I also am extremely thankful to our bipartisan delegation of local legislators, Mayo Clinic Health System, our area business community and our engaged alumni, all of whom see the important impact the new Science and Health Sciences Building will have on northwest Wisconsin and have helped to garner statewide support for the project.”

UW-Eau Claire officials told News 18 that a modern science hall will help recruit more out of state students. They also believe the research agreement with Mayo Clinic Health System would be a great opportunity for students and the community.

Dr. Richard Helmers, regional vice president for the northwest Wisconsin region of Mayo Clinic Health System, also expressed appreciation for the JFC’s inclusion of the Science and Health Sciences Building funding in the capital budget to be forwarded to the Legislature.

“Our partnership with UW-Eau Claire on this project is helping us invest in groundbreaking research and rural health care innovation right here in Wisconsin,” Helmers said.

The Joint Finance Committee is expected to finish its work on Thursday and send the budget for vote in the legislature.

Stephen Kelley

Stephen Kelley joined the News 18 team in August 2006. He is currently the Executive Producer.

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