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It’s hard to miss the irony of the latest deferred maintenance crisis in higher education: A concrete slab recently fell off the University of Wisconsin system headquarters building — where officials make funding decisions for, among other things, capital and repair projects for all system facilities. The slab fell off 19-story Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus and hit the sidewalk in front of the building's main entrance three stories below, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. No one was hurt.
The incident highlights a major challenge for state universities across Wisconsin: how to balance limited budget resources with a growing number of buildings that have fallen into disrepair. In the university’s 2005 master plan, Van Hise Hall was slated for demolition in the next 20 years along with several facilities deemed inefficient and obsolete 1960s and 1970s era buildings.
Gov. Tony Evers’ latest, roughly $2.4 billion capital budget proposal includes about $1 billion for the UW system. System administrators say those funds are sorely needed, as numerous buildings are in states of disrepair similar to Van Hise.
Dan Hounsell is editor of Facility Maintenance Decisions.