By Story Tim Leeds
Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, said he is still hopeful to move ahead on the new Applied Technology Center (ATC) proposal for Montana State University-Northern even though the proposal was not listed on the draft of recommendations from the governor's budget office for bonded projects.
"All we can do is forge ahead," said Jergeson, who works in the grants and sponsored research office of the MSU-Northern Foundation.
The ATC was included on the Board of Regents of Higher Education's list of recommendations to the governor, second on the list for new construction. New construction at the University of Montana College of Technology in Helena was just ahead of the ATC on the regents' list. The COT's proposal was recommended on the budget office's list, at about $5.5 million. The ATC proposal asks for $4.125 million in state funds, with an additional $6 million to $8 million sought from private and federal sources for a comprehensive addition.
Jergeson said there is still time to have the project added to the budget office's recommendations. He said the final draft isn't forwarded for analysis until about Nov. 15. He said even if the ATC isn't included on the final recommendation, it could still go in front of the 2001 legislature.
"Clearly, I'd prefer that they give it a positive recommendation," Jergeson said, "but I'm not overly concerned."
He said whoever is elected to the governor's office can make their own recommendations to the legislature in the first couple of weeks it is in session. Democratic gubernatorial candidateMark O'Keefe, interviewed in an article in the Nov. 2 edition of the Daily News, indicated that he supports the ATC. Jergeson said he has not been able to hold discussions with Judy Martz, the Republican candidate, but he said that Republican legislators who are involved in her campaign have said they will recommend to her that she support the project.
MSU-Northern Chancellor Alex Capdeville said the project is of great importance to the university.
"It's very critical that we get it," he said.
Capdeville said the ATC will strengthen MSU-Northern's position with industry, allowing them to do an even better job creating jobs and training students for those jobs. He said the ATC would be a significant recruiting tool in the technology area, which is one of MSU-Northern's strengths. He said it would also help in recruiting students from two-year centers to finish their four-year degree in the same field. MSU-Northern is one of the only universities in the region that is capable of doing this, he said.
Capdeville said he's not sure why the ATC wasn't included on the preliminary list of recommendations.
"I don't think it's an anti-Northern thing," he said; "I suppose its a call they made."
Jergeson said that since this is the list of bonded projects, the long-term debt service has to be included in the figuring. He said he imagines that the budget office concluded that the lists total of about $46 million is the maximum the state can afford to service, and they had to pick and choose what projects to recommend.
Jergeson said he isn't sure he supports all of the projects that were on the budget office's list of recommendations.
The list includes more than $8.7 million for a new reception unit at the state prison and more than $15 million for building for the Department of Health and Human Services in Helena.
"I'm struggling with that proposal as a priority," Jergeson said about the prison reception unit.
He said the state has poured a lot of money into the prison system and into state government buildings in Helena. He said he thinks the state needs to look at making infrastructure and building improvements outside of Helena.