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Amy Dalrymple, Published October 17 2009

Education panel suggests changes to building policies

New policies recommended Friday by a committee of the North Dakota Board of Higher Education aim to prevent future mistakes with building projects.

NDUS Chancellor Bill Goetz said the policy changes approved by the Budget, Audit and Finance Committee will more clearly define building projects and make the process more transparent.

Officials acknowledge that confusion about the policies contributed to unauthorized cost overruns with presidents’ houses at North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota.

“When errors are made and mistakes are made, we learn from that,” Goetz said.

The new language in the policies includes a specific list of what should be included in the total cost of a project, such as furniture, appliances, parking and landscaping.

In the house projects, there was confusion about whether some of those items should be part of the total.

In addition, private foundations would no longer be able to manage construction projects under the proposed changes. The universities would be responsible for that role.

Jim Miller, executive director for the NDSU Development Foundation, said in hindsight, a lot of the problems would have been alleviated if they raised the money and let the university handle the construction.

“We’re not in this business, and I assure you we’re not going to be in this business going forward,” Miller said.

The policy changes need to be approved by the full board.

John Adams, NDSU vice president for finance and administration, identified changes NDSU is implementing, including:

  • Not proceeding with privately funded projects until cash is in hand.

  • Conducting an internal review of the construction management process.

  • Creating a new construction manager position to ensure closer monitoring of projects.

  • Better defining building advisory committees.

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