Missouri lawmakers’ passage of legislation to fund capital improvement projects for higher education across the state means a long-delayed construction project on the University of Missouri-Rolla campus can proceed on schedule.
Approval on Monday, May 7, of a comprehensive higher education bill by both the Missouri Senate and House means that a project on UMR’s agenda for nearly a decade – the expansion and renovation of Toomey Hall, UMR’s mechanical and aerospace engineering complex – will be completed by the fall of 2009.
UMR has raised $14 million of the $29 million required for the project. That includes a $5 million donation from 1949 mechanical engineering graduate John Toomey and his wife, Mary, and their family. The recently passed higher education bill includes $15 million for the UMR project that was included in Gov. Matt Blunt’s Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative. The initiative called for funding capital improvement projects at public colleges and universities throughout the state through the sale of partial assets from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority.
“Thanks to our legislators’ approval of this bill, UMR will soon have a modern, high-tech teaching facility for our largest academic department,” says UMR Chancellor John F. Carney III. “It’s impossible to deliver a world-class science and engineering education in this day and age without world-class educational facilities. I’m thankful that our legislators recognized the importance of this project – not only to our university, but to the state’s economic vitality as well.”
Carney also applauded the work of 149th District State Rep. Bob May, R-Rolla, and 16th District State Sen. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring, for working to ensure funding for Toomey Hall. “I’m especially thankful to Frank and Bob for their bipartisan support of this project,” Carney says.
Other area legislators to support passage of the legislation include 148th District State Rep. David Day, R-Dixon; 112th District State Rep. Tom Loehner, R-Koeltztown; 111th District State Rep. Charlie Schlottach, R-Owensville; 150th District State Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem; and 147th District State Rep. Don Wells, R-Cabool.
Renovation and expansion of Toomey Hall has been on UMR’s agenda since the late 1990s, when state lawmakers would routinely provide state funding for one or two capital improvement projects each year at Missouri’s public colleges and universities. In 2001, the project was slated to receive state funding, but that plan was scrapped due to shortfalls in state revenue.
The modernization calls for renovating the current 64,413-square-foot Mechanical Engineering Building and constructing a three-story, 80,500-square-foot modern structure that will house learning centers, laboratories, and research and technical facilities. The addition replaces the old Mechanical Engineering Annex, which was built in 1902, one year before the Wright Brothers’ famous first flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C. Upon completion of the new structure, renovation of the ME Building will begin. That renovation of phase one is expected to be completed by the spring of 2008, when UMR will be known as Missouri University of Science and Technology, or Missouri S&T. The entire project is expected to be finished by the fall 2009 semester.