Legislation earmarks $49M for SUNY-Cobleskill projects

State budget legislation Wednesday contained nearly $49 million in good news for the State Universit

State budget legislation Wednesday contained nearly $49 million in good news for the State University of New York at Cobleskill.

The bulk of the funding, $38.2 million, will fund construction of a new agricultural science building on the campus, said college Provost Anne C. Myers.

“We were shocked . . . and we were pleasantly surprised we are getting [everything] we requested,” Myers said after state Sen. James L. Seward announced the funding was included in the state budget Wednesday. “This is huge for our campus to get this much money.”

She said the overall SUNY system requests originally had been more than $4 billion statewide, but that was pared down in former Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s budget plan to about $1.6 billion.

“So the Legislature chose [what to fund],” Myers said.

The new ag-science building will replace several smaller buildings, where some fisheries, wildlife and greenhouse programs are currently housed, Myers said.

Some of the buildings are more than 50 years old and outdated for newer technologies, she said.

“Agriculture is 40 percent of our student body, and they are in some of the worst spaces on our campus,” Myers said.

Seward said the state budget will also include a $3.7 million allocation for construction of an environmental, science and technology center in conjunction with a federally funded research project to develop a biowaste-to-bioenergy center on campus.

That project, coordinated by Douglas Goodale, former dean of agriculture and natural resources programs at SUNY-Cobleskill, is expected to create electricity using gas created from a wide variety of wastes, including manure, food materials from dining halls and various trash.

The bioenergy project has already been awarded nearly $4 million in federal appropriations, Myers said.

The Defense Department has been funding the research plan partly as a way to reduce waste costs at military bases while creating usable electricity.

“The federal funding is for the research, not for buildings,” Myers said. “So the state [legislators] have recognized we need to help you out.”

The new center will house research and technology labs, as well as a gasifier to turn waste into gas and energy.

Another $7 million in the 2008-09 SUNY budget will go toward a variety of maintenance projects on campus and upgrades of existing buildings, Myers said.

“I fought to include these projects in the SUNY five-year capital plan because it is a campus priority,” Seward, R-Milford, said in a release.

Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie, also praised the plan.

“This has been a difficult budget process, requiring balancing of many critical priorities,” Lopez said. “New York’s future depends on ensuring we have a skilled, educated work force,” said Lopez, a SUNY-Cobleskill graduate.

Construction on the new agriculture, science and technology building likely won’t begin until the summer of 2010, Myers said.

The building will be on the site of the college’s fish lab and several other small buildings. It will house academic programs in fish and wildlife, animal science and plant science.

The new building is in addition to an already planned and previously funded $11.3 million expansion of the Wheeler Hall science building on campus. That project, expected to include a 23,125-square-foot addition and upgraded teaching laboratories, is expected to begin construction in summer 2009.

A number of other projects are planned as part of a $72 million, five-year campus facilities master plan approved last fall, Myers said.

SUNY-Cobleskill, which offers two- and four-year degree programs in a variety of fields including sciences, liberal arts, culinary arts, and other fields, has about 2,500 students.

Categories: Schenectady County

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