Senator criticizes boards or ‘secret’ building plans

By Mark Mazzone

A Friday endorsement speech by Sen. Patrick Welch, D-LaSalle, turned into a criticism of “secret plans” by three of the state’s education boards.

Welch, appearing at NIU to endorse fellow Democratic state senate hopeful John Nelson, said the Board of Regents, the Board of Governors, and the state Board of Education, which manages secondary and elementary education in Illinois, are considering making design plans for construction of a $20 million office facility located on the campus of Sangamon State University in Springfield.

Welch was citing an article in the Sept. 17 issue of the Springfield State Journal-Register.

“This is the kind of bureaucratic skullduggery which completely ignores the state of our economy and budget that disgusts the public,” Nelson said.

Welch said he is “particularly troubled” by the plans because there is “greater support than ever to eliminate the Board of Regents and the Board of Governors.”

“They are just trying to hang on by a fingernail,” he said.

Several bills to eliminate both boards, including one last spring, have been bandied about in Springfield in recent years.

BOG spokesperson Michelle Brazell said the only BOG involvement with the building has been attending a preliminary meeting.

“We were very surprised to the extent to which we appeared to be involved,” Brazell said.

Regents spokesperson Cheryl Peck said, if constructed, the building would save money in the long run because it would be on state property, eliminating rent costs and it would also be cheaper to maintain.

“The discussion has been very preliminary,” Peck said.

Although the Regents have not put up any money yet, it could be the body which floats bonds to pay for the building.

NIU President John La Tourette said he has not been involved in the planning thus far, but didn’t indicate whether he was in favor of the project.

“This is essentially an SSU matter. I have not been involved in any discussion, nor has my opinion been asked on the issue,” La Tourette said.