As reported by The Hartford Courant, September 27, 2006.
Stem Cell Research Facility Plan Advances
By Regine Labossiere
The University of Connecticut Board of Trustees Tuesday authorized the UConn Health Center's finance committee to enter into negotiations to purchase a facility to use for stem cell research.
The facility at 400 Farmington Ave. in Farmington is about 200,000 square feet and would include 30 new research lab modules, lab support space and space for the nuclear medicine research program.
At its meeting Tuesday, the trustees approved a new $23.5 million capital budget through the UConn 2000 Phase III for the health center. That funding includes $8.8 million in bonds to buy the property and funding for new laboratory equipment to support the programs.
"The saga began, as you know, under UConn 2000 Phase III," Lorraine Aronson, vice president and chief financial officer, told the board.
The health center had planned to construct a new building through UConn 2000 that would likely have been attached to the health center, but a new facility is needed sooner than a construction project would allow, Aronson said. In 2005, the state General Assembly allocated $100 million toward a 10-year stem cell research program and UConn officials developed a university-wide Stem Cell Institute. Officials plan to designate a lab to perform work on human embryonic stem cells.
"The smart thing to do financially is to purchase and own property," Aronson said.
"It's an impressive building, built in the '70s. The grounds are well-maintained," said Barry Feldman, interim vice president and chief financial officer for UConn.
Feldman said the building's current owners have done environmental tests on the property but the health center is doing an independent review.
Trustee F. Philip Prelli questioned the rush to buy the facility.
"Three months ago we were given this capital plan and we were told we had a couple of years to do it," Prelli said. "Now, three months later, we're being asked to change our capital plan."
Aronson defended the rush, saying there is little change in the funding and whatever change there is would go to "space that we know we will need permanently."
The acquisition still needs to be approved by UConn Health Center's finance subcommittee. Members of the board of trustees also agreed that the building and grounds committee should review the plans.