Refinancing funds slated for projects

By Ken Goze

The numbers for NIU’s long-discussed bond refinancing proposal are in—and parking problems and the controversial Campus Life Building are slated to get the lion’s share of the new $17 million pool of funds.

NIU officials presented a plan which would spend $7.5 million each for a parking structure and the proposed building to the Board of Regents Finance and Facilities Committee Wednesday at Sangamon State University in Springfield.

NIU wants to refinance its current bond debt but must present a list of proposed projects to do so. The parking structure and CLB are not up for project approval but are simply on the required projects list.

Eddie Williams, NIU vice president of Finance and Planning, said an evaluation recently completed by Walker Parking Consultants showed a shortage of 1,050 spaces at NIU. With the construction of Faraday II, the shortage will grow to 1,365. He said the consultant’s recommendations include the reconfiguration of existing lots and a 1,000 space parking structure.

Regent Joe Ebbesen asked whether prohibiting first-year students from driving would ease the problem.

NIU President John La Tourette said the real space crunch is not near the residence halls but the center of campus.

Williams said the $7.5 million CLB is needed to accommodate student support services such as Career Planning and Placement. “We are not able to deliver our services at the level we would like to simply because of the limitations of our facilities,” he said.

The CLB is the latest version of a proposed building which has been bandied about since 1988. Williams and Barbara Henley, vice president for Student Affairs, proposed a Student Life Center last December, but withdrew the suggestion after encountering state budget constraints and student opposition. The CLB broadens the scope of the project to include 37,000 square feet for 13 organizations.

Williams said the need for the building is well-documented and student fees would not be raised by the project. However, the current bond package would be extended for about three more years.

NIU student Regent James Mertes said the $7.5 million should be used to give students a decrease in fees.

Regent Carl Kasten questioned the latest CLB proposal which doubles the space of The Northern Star from 3,300 to 6,500 square feet. Ebbesen said the newspaper is cramped in its current headquarters at Campbell Hall. “When you want to change your mind, you have to go outside,” he said.