March 29, 2009
Regents delay wind turbine decision, defeat Admin. Building naming proposal
The Northwest Missouri State University Board of Regents met in open session Wednesday, March 18, and decided to delay action on proposals calling for the creation of a staff chemist position at the University's new Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and development of a wind turbine project on the R.T. Wright University farm north of Maryville.
The chemist's position is part of an agreement with CIE tenant Carbolytic Materials Company under which the University is to perform testing and test analysis of industrial products and by-products related to the extraction of carbon black from shredded automotive tires. Traditionally produced from the incomplete combustion of oil and natural gas, carbon black has a wide range of applications in the rubber and plastics industry.
Provost Kichoon Yang told the board the $50,000-a-year chemist's position is self-funding, since CMC is expected to pay the University about $7,500 a month in fees for the performance of tests, experiments and other tasks.
However, the board requested a week to review details of the agreement, then passed a motion stating that the position would stand approved as proposed if no member raised further objections after Wednesday, March 25.
The regents also directed staff to request more specific information from Wind Capital Group about its proposal for constructing two large wind turbines, and perhaps a monitoring and transmission facility, on the 750-acre university-owned farm, which is home to livestock and crop operations run by Northwest's Department of Agriculture.
President Dean L. Hubbard asked the board to make a decision as soon as possible, saying that delay could endanger an articulation agreement with North Central Missouri College in Trenton, which wants to create opportunities for students to study wind turbine operation and maintenance.
In response, the regents agreed to meet via teleconference after Wind Capital has an opportunity to provide more details about turbine location, risk factors and financial considerations.
Other business before the board included a request by the city of Maryville with regard to two planned infrastructure projects: replacing/improving 16 th Street from College Drive to Country Club Road and construction of a new water tower on what is now University property north of the Materials Distribution Center.
The regents directed University General Counsel Joe Cornelison to draft legal documents creating an easement across University land for a water main, giving the city permission to build a water tower on about an acre of what is now University property, and granting similar permission to improve the University-owned portion of 16 th Street, which extends from the north edge of campus to the roadway's center line.
Following lengthy discussion of a topic held over from the board's last meeting on Jan. 30, the regents voted 4-3 with one abstention not to name the Administration Building after Hubbard, who will retire July 31 after 25 years as Northwest's president. The measure was supported by the Student Senate, which proposed re-naming the landmark structure after conducting a survey indicating student support for the proposal.
Dr. Doug Sudhoff, assistant professor of mass communication and president of the Faculty Senate, said during Wednesday's meeting the Faculty Senate opposed re-naming the 100-year-old building and had its own proposal for a campus garden to be planted in Hubbard's honor.
The public portion of the meeting ended with a report from Hubbard in response to a board request for a summary of the University's planned response to anticipated budget cuts.
Hubbard said "considerable uncertainty" would cloud the budget picture for several more weeks, and that the status of federal stimulus funds is still uncertain.
"We don't know what's going to come out of the state yet, and we don't know what is going to become the function of the federal government. We probably won't know that until May. So it makes it difficult to put together a budget, particularly when you may be looking at significant cuts, freezing positions, potentially laying people off, modifications in health benefits and so forth," Hubbard said.
Nevertheless, Hubbard said he has directed his senior administrators to put together best-case and worst-case scenarios in order to decide on a target for proposed reductions before the end of the school year.
"I think everybody knows (cuts are) going to happen, because we're not going to get more money than we got last year," Hubbard said. "Some costs are inflating in spite of that, and so we know that we will have to reduce costs. We also know that we have to start replenishing our reserves. We've used those to cushion the decline (in funding) since 2001, and we can no longer do that."
Hubbard said Northwest will follow the process outlined in the University's faculty handbook, which states the administration will discuss proposed cuts with the Faculty Budget Committee before holding a town hall-style meeting open to the entire University community.
"Following that we will give people time to react," Hubbard said, adding that there would be an opportunity for input and suggestions.
"That will give us a chance to come back and consider all the implications," he said. "After that, we'll present it to the board. Obviously if our planning assumptions turn out to be overly pessimistic, then we will have the freedom, when school starts, do something different. But if they turn out to be overly optimistic, then that's another story, and we're going to try to avoid that if at all possible."
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