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MSU's Romney Gym expansion funds cut back

By Eric Turcio, Reporter, eturcio@ktvm.com
Published On: Apr 16 2013 11:06:47 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Some Montana State Students are up in arms after a big MSU project was the only one cut from a major funding bill.

The Senate axed Montana State's planned $25 million renovation of Romney Hall,but approved all other university projects. This included a $10 million Science and Technology building and MSU Billings.

They approved a five million Natural Resources Research Center at Montana Tech and a $29 million building for UM-Missoula.

NBC Montana spoke with Montana State University's Legislative Liaison Tracy Ellig. Ellig told NBC Montana based upon the revenue and spending estimates the legislature had available on Monday, there simply was not enough cash to pay for all the projects. Romney was considered one of the most expensive.

"I had a handful of people say yes that it's getting crowded where ever you go," said MSU Student Thomas Furlong.

Students and campus officials at Montana State University say the 90-year-old Romney Gym needs more space.

Dean of Students Matt Caires told NBC Montana serious renovation is the only way MSU can manage the consistent growth of the campus community.

"Romney Gym is at the heart of our campus and it's an important facility to the University because it's so centrally located," said Caires.

The Senate cut funding for the expansion, in amendments to House Bill Five. The only major school project to get cut with millions going to MSU-Billings, Montana Tech and UM Western. $29 million was green-lighted for UM-Missoula.

"I think the University really needs the space for the new college especially for all the medical programs that we have here, said  Nina Nemoff of Missoula.

Some legislators say there is just not enough money to pay for everything and that Montana must reign in spending to keep the state out of debt.

Caires argues the Legislature has a responsibility to maintain MSU as a state campus.

"The fact that it's going to support the academic mission of the institution, there is clearly a role the legislature has to renovate it," said Caires.

One student we caught up with told NBC Montana he can imagine many uses for a remodeled facility.

"Expand the math center, the writing center, all these different things that can go into that," said Thomas Furlong.

Furlong says the building could help keep students on track toward graduation.

"Maybe you had some physics questions, chemistry questions, what ever the case, but you had a spot you can go and you know you could get help there," said Furlong.

 Tracy Ellig is MSU's Liason in Helena and says he is still hopeful the funding could be returned to the bill, before it hits the Governor's desk.

To clarify, we had initially reported that the funding for the MSU-Billings Science and Tech Building was cut as well, but it was added back in on a lower line in the bill .

MSU did get approval to build Jabs Hall, the new College of Business building. However, that $20 million will not come from tax dollars, but from a private University donation.