Citing ongoing uncertainty over meeting funding goals, UNLV officials received a delay on a contract related to construction for the university’s planned medical school building.
At a Tuesday meeting of the state’s Board of Examiners — a three-member panel consisting of Gov. Brian Sandoval, Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske — UNLV representatives secured an indefinite postponement on a $500,000 pre-construction contract, citing a need to continue fundraising for the planned $250 million facility.
UNLV officials, including Provost Diane Chase and university architect David Frommer, said during the meeting that they would prefer the board hold the contract — which included pre-design construction processes such as “design progress reviews, subcontractor review and qualifications, (and) development of guaranteed maximum price estimates” — for an indefinite period of time until they are able to confirm additional financial backers.
Frommer said that the school had obtained $39 million in private pledges — including a recent $14 million donation — for construction of the building, on top of a $25 million state allocation approved by the 2017 Legislature. He said that university officials wanted to delay any Construction Manager At Risk contract — a step that helps set initial construction costs — for at least a couple of months until the university was able to identify more financial backers for the remaining $186 million needed to meet the rest of the building’s price tag.
“These things are large, they’re complex, they take time to unfold with a lot of moving parts,” he said.
The delay comes after legislators on the Interim Finance Committee in October voted to release state funds devoted to constructing a new medical school for the university. Lawmakers approved the funding as part of an agreement with a mystery donor, who put up a matching $25 million to help fund construction of the school.
University President Len Jessup told legislators at the meeting that a “good burst” of donations was expected to come through in the near future, and that he was “confident” that the remaining donations would come through over the next four years. Nevada Department of Public Works official Chris Chimits told lawmakers at the meeting that the agency planned to start construction on the facility in October 2019, and finish the building by mid-August of 2022.
Frommer said on Thursday that he wasn’t concerned about the ongoing fundraising efforts, and that the university didn’t have a hard date set for the opening of the school. He said in a December UNLV press release that construction would likely start before the medical school’s next major accreditation in July 2021.
“The schedule hasn’t been set quite yet,” he said. “There is no kind of ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled.”
Gus Nunez, administrator of the state’s public works division, said at the meeting that he would acquiesce to UNLV’s request to delay the contract but also said there were preparatory steps to take before UNLV completed its fundraising efforts, and that moving forward would help avoid inflation.
“Obviously there’s going to be a need to do a certain minimum amount of work to have an accredited medical school,” he said. “Those things can be investigated, priced out, so that information will be in front of UNLV at the time that they have their funding more solidified.”
Frommer said that the university didn’t want to proceed with a design plan that would need to be overhauled or changed if fundraising numbers came in higher or lower than expected.
Nunez didn’t return an email seeking comment on Wednesday.
Earlier in October, the board approved a $14.4 million contract with the design firm of Tate Snyder Kimsey Architects for “architectural/engineering services” for the proposed medical school.
Frommer said that contract was brought about on behalf of the public works department, and was more of a preparatory step than a step forward on construction. He said the current site of the school was being used as temporary parking for a nearby university medical facility.
In the past, UNLV officials said their ideal medical school building would be a 9-story, self-contained school located on a university-owned 9-acre plot near University Medical Center, though university officials said the fundraising campaign could affect the size and scope of the project.
Trevor Hayes, a member of the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents, said he wasn’t aware of the request to delay the contract until being contacted by a reporter.