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Amy Dalrymple, Published August 20 2009

NDSU president’s home over budget

The new house for North Dakota State University’s president is projected to cost 10 to 15 percent more than the $900,000 lawmakers authorized the university’s foundation to spend.

Jim Miller, executive director for the NDSU Development Foundation, said the final cost for the on-campus home won’t be known until October or November, after it’s totally completed.

“I have no idea because it’s not done,” Miller said Wednesday.

Still, NDSU President Joseph Chapman and his wife are expected to move in to the unfinished home as early as this weekend or early next week.

The project is running 10 to 15 percent over budget, or $90,000 to $135,000 over, because severe cold last winter and the flood prevented crews from working, resulting in overtime costs this spring and summer to keep the project on schedule, Miller said.

In addition, construction material costs escalated last summer at the time they were approving work proposals and buying materials, he said.

In 2007, the state Board of Higher Education and the Legislature’s Budget Section authorized the Development Foundation to spend up to $900,000 in private donations on the house.

Even though taxpayers aren’t paying for the home, lawmakers still must approve the amount of money spent on what will become university property.

The Budget Section voted in favor of authorizing NDSU and the University of North Dakota to proceed with similarly priced new homes for their presidents. The vote was 33-4 for NDSU and 32-5 for UND.

Rep. Larry Bellew,

R-Minot, was among the lawmakers who opposed authorizing the money to both campuses because of the high dollar amount, which is now even higher in NDSU’s case.

“Well, I do think that a $900,000 house was pretty extravagant for a North Dakota university president,” Bellew said Wednesday. “I think we should spend a little less money on the presidents and a little more on the kids.”

The William C. and Jane B. Marcil Charitable Foundation pledged $1 million each to NDSU and UND to pay for the two presidents’ homes. William Marcil is publisher of The Forum and chairman and CEO of Forum Communications Co. The Marcils were not involved with how the money was spent on either home.

The NDSU foundation raised additional private money from members of its board of trustees for any home costs that exceeded the original

$1 million donation, Miller said.

The project also received in-kind contributions, including the design and construction management donated by architect Terry Stroh.

“Everything that we have in that house has come from private contributions,” Miller said.

The $900,000 figure that was approved was for construction costs alone and did not include appliances or furnishings, Miller said.

Minutes from the higher education board’s meeting said the total cost should not exceed $900,000, but did not specify what was included.

Richie Smith, president of the higher ed board, said he understood the $900,000 covered “furniture, furnishings, furnace … anything that goes into that home.”

The minutes from the Legislature’s Budget Section meeting say the $900,000 was for “construction costs.”

The UND house stayed within the $900,000 amount for construction costs, said Tim O’Keefe, executive director for the UND Alumni Association and Foundation.

The remaining $100,000 from the Marcil gift was used for landscaping and the cost of temporary housing for former UND president Charles Kupchella, O’Keefe said. The home was completed last year.

The former NDSU president’s home, about 60 years old, was inadequate for large groups and presented health and safety concerns, foundation officials have said. An architectural firm recommended it be torn down rather than remodeled.

“We’re going to turn a very nice home over to the state of North Dakota,” Miller said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590