Prairie Springs phase two

Bob Hetzel, UW-L's vice chancellor for administration and finance, leads Sen. Jennifer Shilling and UW System President Ray Cross on a tour of Cowley Hall, the university's 1960s-era science building. School officials asked the state Legislature for $83 million to demolish and replace Cowley.

The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has shot down the $83 million second phase of UW-La Crosse’s Prairie Springs Science Center.

On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled committee approved a capital budget proposal that includes roughly $1 billion of building projects across the UW System — a list that leaves out the science building and residence hall projects UW-L officials have been clamoring for.

UW-L did receive a bit of good news: The committee approved $15 million for maintenance work at Graff Main Hall and $49 million for a new field house, the latter being funded through student fees.

Republicans outnumbered Democrats in the 12-4 party-line vote.

“We’re grateful to have the go-ahead for the field house — it’s a project students are very excited about — but we’re deeply disappointed that phase two of Prairie Springs was not included in the motion,” Chancellor Joe Gow said Wednesday.

Joe Gow


The first phase of Prairie Springs, the construction of a lab and research facility, was completed last summer. The second phase would replace Cowley Hall, which houses classrooms and faculty offices, and which has outlived its usefulness, Gow said.

“For its time, this was state of the art,” he said. “Now we need something that’s state of the art for 2020, for the next 50 years.”

The committee’s proposal, which now moves to the full Legislature, was met with pushback from La Crosse area lawmakers who had hoped to fund Prairie Springs.

Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse, said “the Republican plan is a missed opportunity to invest in our science students.”

Jill Billings


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Jennifer Shilling


Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, also criticized the GOP for rejecting the Coate and Sanford residence hall projects, which included the installation of fire alarm and smoke detection systems.

“We need modern academic facilities to make UW-La Crosse an attractive choice for both faculty and students, and ensure we can stay competitive with other Midwestern universities,” she said. “It is foolish for Republicans to delay projects, reject good-paying jobs and put student safety at risk.”

Shilling also suggested that, relative to other schools in the system, UW-L had gotten the short end of the stick in this year’s budget process. Indeed, outside of the La Crosse campus, a vast majority of system projects were approved.

“It is disappointing for our campus, our students and our community that Republican lawmakers are singling out UW-L with massive cuts rather than invest(ing) in the economic success of our state,” Shilling said.

UW-L will continue to draft plans for Prairie Springs phase two, Gow said, noting that lawmakers could still add it to their final proposal.

Gov. Tony Evers, who must sign off on the spending bill, included Prairie Springs phase two and the residence hall projects in his capital budget proposal.

Kyle Farris can be reached at (608) 791-8234 or kfarris@lacrossetribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Kyle_A_Farris.


Kyle Farris covers education for the La Crosse Tribune. Reach him at (608) 791-8234 or kfarris@lacrossetribune.com.

(6) comments


Liberal: Willing to change things to improve them. Conservative: Resistant to change and improvement. Here's a perfect example of that by Wisconsin's "change is a bad thing" state government. I talked to a couple of the most conservative members of the state assembly (including Vos and some others) and they're still ticked off that somebody invented the automobile and air conditioning. They stomped their feet and hollered, "Why can't people just leave things alone? Forever!! Why???"


Here's the thing those socialist looney liberals have to understand: If the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse gets the 2nd half of their science building built, next thing you know, we'll have more people telling us that man-made climate change exists. True or not, that's an un-American piece of news, because our wise and knowledgeable president tells us that climate change doesn't exist, even though 90+% of the world's scientists say it does. Build the rest of this science building, and the next thing you know, educated scientists from our local university will be telling us that it's not good to have cow manure and nitrates in our drinking water and CO2 in our air. Where and when will these Ludicrous Leftist movements end? You know darn well it's okay for businesses to dump chemicals in people's drinking water. It must be okay, cuz businesses are doing it all over the country, right? Get rid of those money-motivated restrictions, bring on the polluted air and water. Building a newer, better science teaching facility will do nothing to help make those things happen. Kissing rich booties is much more important then graduating well-educated scientists. How do you spell edyoukated?


The old tried-and-true scam by UWL of having the current students vote yes for a building project that future students will have to pay for. Seems ethical...

Mary Lund

Not so different than old people voting in climate change deniers. They won't be around to pay the piper either.

Mr Wizard

You've got it real bad, don't you Mary. Get help.


If a school or any other organization wants to improve itself, in this case with a much-needed modernization of their 50-60 year old science facility, it will cost money. How can you not know that? Yes, somebody has to pay for those improvements, or, guess what? Those improvements won't happen.. Let me know if you have any ideas on how to replace your home's leaky roof without spending money. That is what you're advocating, and it makes no sense. Good stuff costs money. Deal with it.

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