Illinois Jobs Now! promises funding to three public universities

Despite a budget deficit, the state of Illinois continues to promise funding for building projects at different universities with the Illinois Jobs Now plan. That is a $31 billion plan that attempts to create and retain more than 439,000 jobs over the next six years, according to the governor’s official Web site.

“When the governor got into office, some of his top priorities were to strengthen the economy and create jobs,” said Ashley Cross, spokeswoman for the governor.

Last week, Illinois Jobs Now promised to fund three separate construction projects at the University, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC) and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE), respectively.

Lincoln Hall was chosen for work because students depend on it, said Clark Wise, director of construction management for Facilities and Services at the University. “Literally, thousands go through it. It’s one of the signatures of the Quad and has a great deal of history,” Wise said.

Although the governor’s Web site states that the project will create approximately 350 construction jobs, Wise said he is not sure how much Illinois Jobs Now funding will help.

“We hope to take bids in a month or two,” he said. “Renovations could start as early as March or April next year. The project would take around two years to complete.”

Wise said along with making the exterior watertight, the inside of the building will be state-of-the-art.

“On the inside there will be a complete overhaul, meaning lots of demolition work. There will be new offices, classes, teaching facilities and technological improvements,” he said.

He added that the building’s original architectural features will be kept and restored.

The project for SIUC will replace the Transportation Education Center in Murphysboro, said Rod Sievers, SIUC assistant to the chancellor for media relations.

“The aviation and automotive facilities were built in the 1950s and are falling apart,” he added. “The automotive and aviation programs will both be housed in a new building.”

He said Illinois Jobs Now has promised $63 million to pay for construction, equipment and the technical infrastructure needed.

“It will create approximately 350 construction jobs,” he said. “Bidding for the project will begin in the next 60 days. We’re not sure how long the building will take from there.”

Sievers said the idea to build a new center was first proposed in 1996.

“It has taken 13 years to get to this point. This project will replace some very old facilities that are really in a deplorable condition,” he said.

SIUE’s project will be a new science building, which will create about 435 new construction jobs, said Richard Walker, SIUE assistant vice chancellor for planning and budgeting.

“This university’s single greatest need has been a new science facility,” he added. “It has been inhibiting the growth of this university. Our science facilities are more than 50 years old.”

Walker said half of the funding from Illinois Jobs Now will be used for a new building to house biology, chemistry and environmental science courses. The other half of the funding will be used to renovate the existing science building for physics and math courses.

He said this project has been SIUE’s No. 1 priority request to the Illinois State Legislature for 10 years.

“Preparation for building and renovating has begun this month,” Walker said. “Building will most likely begin in May. We expect the building to be finished in November 2011 and renovations to be complete in November 2012.”