Regents Approve Funding to Complete Baird Hall Renovation

Rogers State University’s Board of Regents has approved a funding plan to complete the $9 million expansion and renovation of Baird Hall on the Claremore campus.

The Board of Regents for the University of Oklahoma, the governing board for RSU, approved the plan at its regular meeting on Tuesday in Norman.

Regents approved the issuance of up to $3.5 million in bonds through the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Master Lease for Real Property Program to complete the final phase of expansion and renovation of the 56-year-old building.

“This solid, efficient method of funding has been proven to be highly successful in providing the type of educational facilities that students need and deserve on Oklahoma’s college and university campuses,” said RSU President Dr. Larry Rice.

To retire the bonds, the university plans to increase the facility fee paid by students, beginning in the fall of 2010. RSU students recently expressed support for a facility fee increase of up to $4 per credit hour through a resolution approved by the Student Government Association.

“After engaging in a lot of debate, the majority of student delegates decided that the timely completion of Baird Hall would provide much-needed space and allow the university to move forward with expanding programs,” said Katie Navarro, president of the RSU Student Government Association.

Sale of the bonds will be authorized by the State of Oklahoma’s Council of Bond Oversight and Oklahoma Development Finance Authority.

Since proceeds from the bonds will not be immediately available to allow construction to move forward, the Board of Regents also approved a short-term construction loan. The loan will be repaid with bond proceeds in July 2010 when the final construction phase is expected to be completed, said Tom Volturo, RSU executive vice president for administration and finance.

The total $9 million cost of the Baird Hall expansion and renovation project includes funding of $4 million from the Oklahoma Higher Education Promise of Excellence Act of 2005, approximately $1.1 million in facility revenue bonds issued in 2007 and $500,000 in private donations and other University funds, Volturo said.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE) implemented the Master Lease Real Property Program to facilitate acquisitions of long-term assets for the state’s colleges and universities using the lease-purchase method. OSRHE periodically submits funding requirements to the Council of Bond Oversight and the Oklahoma Development Financing Authority, and assists the institutions in developing and executing appropriate plans for financing.

“This service provided by the State Regents greatly reduces the time and effort that would otherwise be required for an institution to finance the acquisition of a major asset,” Volturo said. “The state’s colleges and universities have encountered great success using this method.”

The Board of Regents also approved the awarding of contracts to contractors and suppliers by university officials to complete the final construction phase of the project. The board authorized the signing of contracts up to $3 million with necessary change orders of up to $300,000 during the final phase.

The final stage of the project will include completion of the building’s interior, landscaping and installation of equipment and furnishings, Volturo said. The building should be ready for occupancy by July 2010, he added.

An additional $1.6 million will be required for architectural fees, laboratory and computer equipment and furnishings, bringing the total cost of the project to approximately $10.6 million. These additional costs will be funded through bond funds, private grant funding and other sources.

Baird Hall was built in 1953 as a 24,000-square-foot classroom building for the Oklahoma Military Academy, a predecessor institution of RSU.

The newly expanded and renovated facility will feature 52,000 square feet, including an entry hall, commons area, eight additional classrooms of various sizes, four seminar rooms, a research classroom, several learning laboratories and faculty offices.

Special features of the new building will include a lecture hall with a stage and elevated seating on the west side of the building and an outdoor classroom designed in an amphitheater style on the east side. In addition, the building will include a 2,100-square-foot art gallery, a special classroom and lounge for the university’s Honors Program, several renovated art studios and an archival room.

The Board of Regents also approved RSU’s Campus Master Plan, a list of capital projects at a total cost of $91.7 million. All Oklahoma colleges and universities typically update long-term capital needs and submit them to their governing boards on an annual basis.

The long-term master plan for RSU includes current initiatives such as the Baird Hall expansion and renovation project; near-term projects, such as planned additional student housing on the Claremore campus in the amount of approximately $16 million; as well projects presently unfunded that will serve the University’s long-range needs, Volturo said. Those projects include continued improvements to the Bartlesville and Pryor campuses, a new Child Development Center on the Claremore campus and security and infrastructure improvements on all three campuses, he said.

The plan also includes as-yet unfunded, long-range projects such as the renovation of the Will Rogers Auditorium, estimated at $6 million; a new $6 million classroom and laboratory building to accommodate rapidly growing enrollment on the Claremore campus; and future multipurpose and sports facilities in Claremore, with an approximate cost of $18 million.