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Provisions of UConn 2000 report will strengthen program, says board chair

by Karen A. Grava - September 7, 2005

The chairman of the Board of Trustees has taken responsibility for developing a plan to implement the recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on UConn Review and Accountability.

Dr. John W. Rowe said the report will help improve management of UConn 2000 projects and significantly strengthen the program’s implementation over the next 10 years.

“The report gets to the bottom of the issues in a constructive way and builds on the initial corrective action plan put in place by President Austin several months ago,” he said. “We will begin immediately to put in place a comprehensive approach to the changes recommended by the commission.”

The commission, which issued its report last week, recommended that UConn retain control over UConn 2000 but recommended the formation of a building committee that will consist of three Board of Trustees members and four non-University individuals to ensure that building projects are safe, code-compliant, and cost-effective. The commission also recommended hiring a director of capital projects; strengthening audit and inspections of each project; and establishing a separate Board of Trustees committee on construction. Construction issues currently are overseen by the board’s committee of financial affairs.

The commission was appointed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell after the University discovered late last fall that student housing in Hilltop Apartments, Husky Village, and Charter Oak Apartments and Suites did not meet fire and building codes; that some recommendations from auditors had not been implemented; and that some projects had cost overruns or had not been competitively bid.

The governor held a press conference, along with Rowe and University President Philip E. Austin, last Thursday at the Alumni House. She noted that the UConn 2000 program has “truly transformed” the University physically and academically and noted that “we are proud of the University and the people who make it up,” she said.

But the UConn 2000 construction program has had serious problems, she said, and changes are necessary.

“I wanted to make sure that our taxpayers got their money’s worth. I wanted to make sure that our parents knew their children were safe in the dorms and in the classrooms here. And I wanted our students to know they were safe and in functioning new buildings,” she said.

“This is a new day for UConn,” Rell added, “and I look forward to working with President Austin, Board Chairman Jack Rowe, and the General Assembly to see to it that these recommendations are turned into action as soon as possible.”

Most of the changes can be implemented without legislative approval. But some, such as outlining procedural changes in bidding to permit certain types of construction management, require changes to the UConn 2000 legislation.

“The new structure will allow us to avoid problems without impeding progress on the UConn 2000 program,” Austin said.

The report also recommends that the University’s newly established Office of Fire Marshal and Building Inspector be transferred to the state Department of Public Safety, and that all buildings constructed during the UConn 2000 program that have not been inspected by an independent building inspector be fully inspected no later than Feb. 1.

The board’s implementation plan will address how best to meet the commission’s concerns and operationalize the report’s proposals.

“We feel strongly that the recommendations outlined by the commission provide the University with excellent mechanisms to ensure that projects are completed on time, on budget, and meet all building and fire codes,” Austin said. “The extra oversight will help us avoid problems as we continue UConn 2000, a program that has accomplished so much for the University.”

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