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University of Montana to seek more funding from legislature

Posted at 3:51 PM, Feb 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 16:25:06-05

Now that enrollment finally starting to stabilize University of Montana officials say this is the perfect time to reinvest in its infrastructure.

UM is planning to ask the state legislature for $23 million next year from the state long-range building program.

The money will go toward improvements at the main campus in Missoula, Montana Tech, UM Western, and Helena College.

UM spokeswoman Paula Short said the university is also using funds from debt refinancing, private donations, and spending authority to complete some of the projects.

"The time is now to be planning for those projects that we want to get in the pipeline," she told MTN News. "With student success at the center of our decision-making process, these are designed to improve the student experience at the University of Montana.

Projects on the list include heating and power upgrades, roof replacements, and dorm renovations. Short said the buildings at the top of the list are the ones that need it most, like the music building, which hasn’t seen any major renovations since it first opened in 1953.

College of the Arts and Media Interim Dean John DeBoer said student needs have changed in the 70 years since the building went up. "Being able to focus and concentrate and do the in-depth musical work that a student needs to do to get a music education isn’t really possible in some of our spaces."

Rooms are holding twice the capacity they were built for, and the music building is one of many buildings requiring asbestos abatement and new HVAC systems.

“Just imagine being in a four foot by five-foot practice room with your trumpet and you’re trying to play, and hear your playing, while you can also hear the tuba next door in a practice room playing a completely different piece of music," DeBoer said.

He added that students are looking forward to the improvements. "Students have been clambering for this work for decades at this point, so we’re really excited that the university is putting this forward for spending authority for the state."

The project proposals have already been sent to the Montana University System Board of Regents who get a more in-depth look at all the proposals when they meet next month.