An empty state piggy bank leaves King Hall School of Law expansion and renovation at a standstill.
Due to a tight state budget, the California Pooled Money Investment Board halted payments for state-funded capital projects on Dec. 17. On Jan. 9 the campus suspended the King Hall project for 90 days. Contractor K.O.O. Construction will maintain the area during this period.
The board consists of the state treasurer as chairperson, the state controller and the director of finance and manages taxpayers‘ money and uses funding resources for state agencies and projects, like King Hall.
The project will incorporate 30,000 square feet of expansion space and renovate 22,000 square feet of existing space in King Hall. The project budget is $21.8 million – $17.9 million of which are state funds and $3.9 million are donations.
If the state is able to renew funding within the 90-day timeframe the campus can lift the suspension. At the end of 90 days there are several possibilities. For example, the contract can be terminated, with which there are associated costs, or an extension with the contractor can be negotiated.
“We are hopeful that things will get resolved prior to that,” said Karl Mohr, assistant vice chancellor for Resource Management and Planning.
Construction is about 15 percent along with a completed foundation for the expansion sector of the building. There has been no vertical construction. Once the expansion part of the project is finished construction will move on to the renovation of the old building.
“The additional instructional and office space this project affords is of great importance to our students and faculty in the school of law and their plans for the future,” said Enrique Lavernia, provost and executive vice chancellor. “However, the ability of the state to provide funding for this and other affected capital projects requires a resolution of the state’s budget issues that credit markets will find credible as a basis for lending money.“
In a Jan. 13 letter to the law school community, law school dean Kevin Johnson wrote, “We hope that this halt in construction is a mere hiccup. Indeed, at this point, we are not certain that the suspension will substantially delay completion of the project.“
The board’s decision affects other campus state-funded projects as well.
Work on the Surgery and Emergency Services Pavilion at the UC Davis Medical Center will continue because the building is near completion and the cost of stopping construction would surpass funds saved.
UC Davis is also proceeding with the 70 percent complete physical sciences expansion building for the department of geology, which draws from campus and state funding. But the university will have to employ campus funds earlier than expected. Pending on when state funds will be restored, Mohr said there is some exposure there.
“It is unknown how future state funding is going to work in relation to the current financing problem,” Mohr said. “It’s really a state cash flow problem right now.”
Other campus projects currently in planning stages, like the new Vet Med 3B building, will pause until funding resumes.
These projects have already been approved. The Vet Med building is in the current year’s budget and is approved in legislature. Mohr called the situation “unprecedented.“
“Under normal circumstances we would be getting ready to bid on that project, but without cash to make that happen we can’t,” Mohr said. “There are projects that are in various states of funding and we have to adjust based on availability of funding. It’s an uncertainty that we have to deal with right now.“
The new Graduate School of Management building and the conference center near the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts are not affected because they do not rely on state funding.
The expansion phase of King Hall was scheduled for completion at the end of this year, and the renovation phase in December of 2010.
“This delay means less days that we will get to spend in a brand new King Hall that we had to put up with all the construction during finals,” said second-year law student Sajjad Khan.
Khan said he could hear sledgehammers, tractors and walls breaking down while in class, especially during the period before finals.
“I would be sitting in the library studying, and it’s just ridiculous. It’s two in the morning, the whole building is shaking and I had to leave. They were working around the clock,” he said.
POOJA KUMAR can be reached at email@example.com.