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The stage has been set for State Technical College to construct a new building and renovate another to enhance its utility and civil infrastructure programs, after the school's Board of Regents approved the contract negotiations for the projects Wednesday.

By a 3-0 vote, the Board of Regents authorized State Tech President Shawn Strong to negotiate a contract not to exceed $5 million for a new Utility Technology Center.

Two other board members — President John Klebba and Greg Hoberock — abstained because of financial conflicts of interest with the general contractor for the project, Prost Builders Inc., or a recommended subcontractor.

The News Tribune reported in October some details about the planned new building and its construction, but more were available Wednesday.

The Utility Technology Center is planned to sit on 30 acres of land on the northeast side of campus. The main Utility Technician Building — to be located where there's currently a storage building — is planned to feature a nearly 20,000 square foot, dirt floor utility lab where students in the school's electrical distribution and utility systems technician programs can work on utility poles indoors.

"We're not going to make our linemen soft" by letting them work indoors, Strong said, but the ability to work indoors will allow for instruction to effectively continue in winter and inclement weather.

The first phase of the building will also include an electrical distribution program lab.

Strong said the second phase will require about $3 million of fundraising, and showed on a printed layout the second phase would feature additional classrooms, labs and storage space.

Strong said the building should be open after 10 months of construction following the signature of the contract with Prost and approval by the federal government. No ground-breaking date had been set yet.

Approval is needed from the federal government because of the involvement of a $2 million U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration grant. State Tech's receipt of the grant was announced in October.

Strong expected to get that approval within days.

The project is also being paid for with $1.4 million of state appropriations, $618,000 in bonds left over after the construction of State Tech's health sciences building, and $550,000 of in hand or pledged funds, Strong said to the board, adding the total "puts us where we need to be."

He said architects' original estimate for the project had been $6.5 million. All of the six bids submitted Dec. 17 were under approximately $5.7 million, with Prost's being the lowest at about $4.97 million.

The Utility Technology Center is also planned to feature Safety Village, described in the agenda packet of Wednesday's meeting as "a multi-home residential neighborhood with all underground utilities such as gas, water, wastewater, electric and communications."

Strong said that would be located east of the Utility Technician Building.

An outdoor electrical lab would also feature "a substation to simulate feeding an electrical distribution system," according to the project's description.

All five members of the Board of Regents also approved Wednesday that Strong negotiate a contract of no more than $1.4 million for the renovation of State Tech's multi-purpose building — a project that will have its construction costs fully reimbursed by the state as part of $3 million of funding for an Infrastructure Technician Education proposal previously submitted to the state and approved by Gov. Mike Parson.

The renovation project will consist of about 7,000 square feet of space, including two large classrooms, a locker room area — for dirty boots, Strong said — and restrooms.

Renovating the multi-purpose building would allow for expansion of programs involving natural gas, water, wastewater and civil construction.

Strong said the planned finish date for the renovation is June 15, and construction would start 20 days from the signing of the contract.

Verslues Construction Co. Inc. had the lowest bid of five received Dec. 17, at about $1.33 million.

He said the multi-purpose building is typically where new programs have gone, and the renovation will connect the building to the neighboring heavy equipment building — eliminating the trailers in between being used as classrooms.

Strong said steel for the project should be on site in mid-February.

The Board of Regents also approved Wednesday a more than $300,000 contract with Integrated Facility Services Inc. to install a fluid cooling tower.

Strong said the water running into the Information Technology Center — which is home to the campus library, among other spaces — is about 100 degrees in the summer, and that heat damages heating, cooling and air conditioning units inside the building. "We constantly have mechanical failures in this building," he said.

He said the installation of a fluid cooling tower would otherwise not affect the campus' ground loop geothermal system.

The Board of Regents also approved a contract with Jenzabar to update the campus' management system software, which Strong said is nearly 20 years old and hinders capabilities including online registration.

The contract includes a one-time fee of more than $387,000 for professional services to integrate the new software over 18 months, and a cost over five years of more than $1.25 million for licensing and maintenance, plus more than $44,000 in third-party software and licensing fees.

Altogether, it will cost about $50,000 more per year to operate the new software.

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