Regents adjust project budgets

By Karl Terry

In a time of rapidly changing construction costs, Eastern New Mexico University Regents are learning that estimating project budgets for renovation of older buildings is far from an exact science.

The Regents met in a special meeting Monday specifically to go over capital projects in Portales. They OK’d two new projects and approved project budget increases for two ongoing projects.

“This construction is a volatile thing when you’re taking (renovating) a 40-year-old building like the Music Building,” said Scott Smart, vice president for Business Affairs. “No one can tell us what you’re going to find when they tear a building like that down to the studs.”

Smart explained that under new policy by the Higher Education Department, the board must reapprove any project that has a change of 10 percent or more.

“We’re going to be bringing a lot more of these kinds of changes to you because of changes at HED,” ENMU President Steve Gamble said.

“I’m just concerned about all the extra hoops we have to jump through to get things done,” commented Regent Pauline Ponce.

Regents gave final approval of the budget for the nearly completed Campus Union Building renovation. The original budget had been $3.613 million and the final budget was $4.223 million. Smart said unforeseen roof issues accounted for most of the change in the project.

A project to renovate the heating, ventilation and air conditioning campus-wide, which is also close to completion, more than doubled in cost, from $1.6 million to $3.445 million.

Smart said the HVAC project increased in scope after additional funding sources were found, accounting for some of the increase, but he noted that rising construction costs were also a big factor.

“This project gives you a good feel for what we’re going to see in future projects,” Smart said.

Phase I of an electrical system project is ready for bid and projected at $3.1 million. The other new project, renovation of the Music Building, comes in at $7.5 million. The project, which scheduled to start in late spring, is being tackled with $4.5 million in General Obligation bonds approved last year as its main funding source.

“I might note that none of these projects is being financed out of institutional reserves,” Gamble said. “It’s all with current money.”