BOR committee approves plans

By Ken Goze

NIU bond refinancing and plans to bankroll a proposed $3 million data backbone and utility relocation project were given a green light at a Board of Regents committee meeting Wednesday.

The Regents Finance and Facilities Committee recommended the hiring of Kemper Securities Group to serve as financial adviser for the refinancing, which is designed to take advantage of low interest rates and kick up about $15 million in new funds.

Although the plan was sidelined after the board’s December meeting as officials hoped for lower interest rates, the rates bottomed out in January and have crept upward since then, slowly closing the window of opportunity to save money.

Eddie Williams, vice president of Finance and Planning, said delays could cost NIU, but refinancing still will be worthwhile.

“We’ll still come out ahead because they (the rates) won’t jump that far. Our bonds are out there at 10 percent,” he said. “NIU is still working on plans for specific projects and won’t be ready for the transaction until mid May.”

Money generated by the refinancing will be used to address parking problems, utility improvements and the proposed controversial $7 million Student Life Center.

Williams said NIU is awaiting the results of a campus parking survey and the Student Life Center, on hold since January, will be reexamined by another committee, which will look over the current plans again.

Despite vehement student opposition, Williams said the need for the center is “very well established.”

“There are some other needs and priorities such as financial constraints. We have to see what we can do without negatively impacting fees. We’re going to start where we were, examine some other factors and try to come to a conclusion,” Williams said.

He said although NIU is cutting enrollment, the center is needed, like Faraday II, to catch up to current needs.

He committee also authorized NIU to develop short-term bond financing for a $3 million project to install a campus-wide fiber optic system along with the Lucinda Avenue improvements.

Williams said the system is needed to update NIU’s computer network. He said the widening of Lucinda will require movement of lines and give NIU an economical way to lay fiber optic cable.

Also noticeable at the committee meetings was the presence of a security guard. The guard likely was stationed to deal with possible student protesters, but they failed to materialize.