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TX: UT System puts brakes on new headquarters project

By   /   December 14, 2012  /   News  /   No Comments

By Mark Lisheron | Texas Watchdog

UT HQ: Citing campus building plans, the chairman of the UT System Board of Regents says plans for a new system headquarters in downtown Austin are on hold.

AUSTIN — Taxpayers are free to direct their ire at University of Texas System Board of Regents Chairman Gene Powell for robbing them of as much as $5 million a year in savings.

Powell had the temerity to suggest the Regents put off plans to build a new headquarters for the UT System in downtown Austin, the Austin American-Statesman reports Friday.

We know. You’ve already clicked on the link to the story, and it says not building a shiny new 15-story headquarters in a high-rent district would save $102.4 million, considerably more than $5 million.

That’s why you aren’t on the Board of Regents.

We’re coddling, but follow along. Many months ago, the Regents looked out at their empire, a complex of five buildings downtown. Although these buildings were paid for, they were expensive to maintain.

A study of the matter concluded a consolidation and construction would lead to annual savings in maintenance, energy efficiency, security and other sundries of between $2 million and $5 million a year.

At its maximum savings, the building would pay for itself in 20 years unless, of course, new technologies would make it foolish not to build an even more cost-saving headquarters.

Not at all unlike the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars being spent by our local and state governments to capture the “savings” of solar power.

But Powell wants to save the whole $102.4 million, right? You’re still just a little behind the curve on this.

According to the Statesman, the Legislature is anxious to put these cost savings theories into practice by merging UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American into a single Lower Rio Grande Valley campus with a brand new medical school.

Knowing perfectly the direction of the political winds, Powell sent a memo to the board saying construction-savings projects on actual campuses “must take priority over other internally focused capital projects like the proposed new UT System building.”

Not to worry. Powell assured Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and Scott Kelley, executive vice chancellor for business affairs,“that we will recommend re-evaluation of the project at an appropriate time.”

Appropriate meaning when there is more money available to be spent on saving.

Contact Mark Lisheron at [email protected] or 512-299-2318 or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.


Mark Lisheron was a former Austin-based reporter for Watchdog.org.