- Associated Press - Friday, August 8, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The best way to get construction of an over-budget fine arts center moving forward at Northern State University is to hire a cost-saving construction manager and trim the project, a group of state regents decided Friday.

The building committee of the South Dakota Board of Regents approved an $11.3 million budget in June to renovate the Johnson Fine Arts Center, with changes including new seating and acoustic improvements in the theatre, lobby improvements, a new black box theatre and new office spaces in which faculty can also teach their lessons. The regents recently found out the project came in $4.5 million over budget. The architects have been able to trim that to $2.8 million, and the regents met by teleconference Friday to figure out how to close the remaining gap.

After much discussion, the committee agreed to hire a construction manager at risk to shave an additional $2.8 million off the project. A construction manager at risk means the regents can agree upon a guaranteed maximum price.

Jeff Nelson, of Sioux Falls-based Baldridge and Nelson Architects and Engineers, said he was confident a construction manager would help.

Northern State University President James Smith said the space is critical for classes and noted that school has already stripped two auditoriums of their seats to prepare for the remodeling.

The school has remodeled one auditorium to relieve space issues, but “there’s an urgency - not only the school of fine arts for this facility to be done, but we have everything from beginning accounting to sociology to beginning psych that meet in those larger lecture halls and we really have to get those back on board and in use as soon as possible.”

To reduce their budget, the architects cut the addition of a black box performance theater.

Smith said new traditional classrooms hadn’t been built by the university in almost 40 years.

“We kind of have to get this right, not just for fine arts, but for the whole academic program at Northern,” said Regent Terry Baloun. “We can’t shrink this project down so that it doesn’t give it what we need for the next 50 years.”

The full Board of Regents will meet next week in Pierre to discuss the operating budget for fiscal year 2016. The building committee has not set a date to meet to pick a construction manager.

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