The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday February 3rd

Finance update: developments for new law, public health buildings, administrative roof

UNC Gillings School of Public Health is pictured on Sept. 23, 2022.
Buy Photos UNC Gillings School of Public Health is pictured on Sept. 23, 2022.

The UNC School of Law and the Gillings School of Global Public Health will soon have new areas for students and faculty and the roof of the Administrative Office Building will also be replaced.

The UNC Board of Trustees’ Budget, Finance and Infrastructure Committee recently approved stages for each capital project.

Replacement facilities for Van Hecke-Wettach Hall — a section of the law school — will include a new law library, classrooms, administrative offices and student support spaces. 

“We have a really outdated building, especially compared to any of the other law schools or any other facilities on campus," second-year law school student Morgan Schriner said. "So it's definitely needed for us."

The BOT gave site approval for the Global Leadership Center, which is roughly a 10,000-square-foot addition to the Michael Hooker Research Center at the Gillings School. 

Evan Yassky is the university architect and the executive director of UNC's Facilities, Planning and Design Department. His team manages the larger capital project portfolio for the campus. 

“This goes back more than a year when we started talking to the [former Gillings] dean about a project to create this Global Leadership Center," he said. "Basically, the vision is to have a place for leaders in public health field around the world to convene and to collaborate on the biggest problems in public health out there today and in the future."

Yassky said the Global Leadership Center will support in-person, virtual and hybrid collaboration. These spaces will also support more enhanced data visualization. The center will be 100 percent funded by gifts. 

“There is a particular donor that the dean has been working with for quite a while," Yassky said. "The donor is very interested in this idea, both to create the new building as well as the programs that will occur in the building. So, it's sort of a gift that would accomplish both of those things.” 

The University also gained approval to fix the roof of the Administrative Office Building for up to $750,000. 

UNC initially sought approval for up to $100,000 in advanced planning spending authority to study the roof. 

“The leaking roof was over the IT and finance building, so you can imagine computers that are storing your financial information or computer systems for the whole school and there is a leaking roof,” Trustee Marty Kotis said.

The financial request was based on State Property Office regulations, which Kotis said can create an onerous process that produces more cost. 

“'I’m a commercial real estate developer,” he said. “I would never spend my own money to go and study a roof leak and wait several months and then spend the same amount of money or more amount of money to fix it.” 

After a round of discussion, the BOT gave the University $750,000 to fix the roof outright and skip the advanced planning stage. 

“We gave them more authority, not less," Kotis said. "And we gave them more funding, not less.”  

Jenna Robinson is the president of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal and said it is common for approval processes to take a long time at universities and other institutions. 

“I think part of the reason for that is that universities — especially public universities — know that there has to be accountability,” she said. “In order to be accountable, they have this kind of long, sometimes what seems like an unnecessarily complicated process, so that there's transparency and there are opportunities for a lot of different people to weigh in.” 

She said the lengthy approval process stems from the need for spending to be approved by the BOT or UNC Board of Governors, depending on the amount requested

“It sounds like the Board of Trustees did the right thing in expediting this process to go ahead and get the leak repaired,” Robinson said. 

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