Nov. 14, 2016

regents

Courtesy of the Eagle: Texas A&M regents approve millions for building projects

By STEVE KUHLMANN steve.kuhlmann@theeagle.com

The Texas A&M University Board of Regents approved more than $200 million in new construction projects for the flagship campus during a regular meeting Thursday in the Memorial Student Center.

Among the local projects include the $76.5 million biocontainment research facility project -- known as the Global Health Research Complex -- a $103.8 million Medical Research and Education Building project at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center and a $17 million West Campus Support Building.

The new money for the Global Health Research Complex brings the project's funding to a total of $86 million. Once built, the complex is expected to provide researchers with state-of-the-art containment facilities where they will be able to study "infectious agents and diseases in plants, animals and humans," according to the materials presented to the regents.

"Working together, the components of the A&M System are in a unique position to tackle infectious disease threats to humans and animals," said Russell Wallace, director of facilities planning and construction. "There are numerous current research collaborations between the biomedical, veterinary, engineering, environmental, social, life and health sciences occurring within the A&M System. These research programs are developing and implementing cutting-edge diagnostic technologies, therapeutics and prevention methods in response to infectious disease threats ranging from bioterrorism to food safety.

"The merging of these existing research units into a new biocontainment facility will promote a global health focus for the A&M System both organizationally and functionally," he said.

Set to be located near the new Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, the roughly 102,000-gross-square-foot complex will provide research space and resources to the Health Science Center, AgriLife Research, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and more.

Construction is scheduled to begin in January, with a tentative completion date of March 2019.

Including an expansion to the Health Science Center's current Medical Research and Education Building and the construction of a second Medical Research and Education Building, Wallace said the additional funding approved by the regents will bring the project budget to $103.8 million.

Among the features of the project include a new multi-disciplinary classroom facility and several laboratories and research spaces for students, faculty and staff. Wallace said the improvements provided by the project are expected to increase competitiveness, enable and encourage interdisciplinary collaboration and strengthen the Health Science Center's recruitment opportunities.

The project is set to begin construction in December with a projected completion scheduled for March 2019.

Located near the White Creek Apartments, Wallace said the $17 million West Campus Support Building project is set to become the "social heart" of the West Campus housing district, offering a dining facility, gathering spaces and residence life support spaces to students.

The project is expected to begin construction this month, with an expected completion date of November 2017.

Three additional projects approved include a $9.75 million campus electrical substantiation and capacity upgrade project, a $15 million replacement of the Mosher Hall HVAC system and an addition $6 million to aid in the construction of The Gardens at Texas A&M University.

After passing a resolution in November 2015 for the tuition rate for fall 2016 and fall 2017, the regents noted that the upcoming rate for fall 2017 has been determined.

When it was initially passed, the regents approved that the tuition rate would be adjusted "based on the 2016 Higher Education Price Index or 2.2 percent, whichever is less."

As the 2016 Higher Education Price Index ended at 1.8 percent, that will be the increase to guaranteed rates.

A&M System Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Billy Hamilton noted, however, that current students with guaranteed rates will not be affected by the increase.

The Board of Regents also heard a presentation by representatives from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Texas A&M University-Kingsville about the possibility of a potential merger between the two institutions.

No decision was made, but there was interest in pursuing a review by the 2017 legislative session -- a move that would require a swift approval by the regents before the end of the year.

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