- Associated Press - Sunday, April 12, 2015

LONG BEACH, Miss. (AP) - The University of Southern Mississippi plans to spend $7 million for a new business building on its Gulf Park campus, using $3.5 million in money that lawmakers decided to borrow through bonds in the just-concluded legislative session.

USM President Rodney Bennett told The Sun Herald (https://bit.ly/1D86GPN) Friday that the 15,000-student university will give the first pay increases in four years to faculty and staff, using its share of $17 million lawmakers added to state aid to public universities for that purpose. Most schools have given pay raises more recently.

“This is a step in the right direction, to say to those faculty and staff here and those we’d like to recruit that Mississippi is sensitive to cost of living and salaries elsewhere, and we’re moving toward greater compensation,” Bennett said.

The university also received $6 million for improvements to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs.

In March, the College Board approved USM’s plans to pay $126,000 to an architect to design a building to replace what’s called the Joe Earl Holloway Complex. Board documents stated that an engineer had recommended USM abandon those modular buildings in the rear of the Gulf Park campus because of water damage from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. The documents stated classes have already been relocated and that USM intends to demolish the complex once a new building is completed.

Bennett said the new building will have two stories and 24,000 square feet, holding 30 to 34 faculty offices and 500 classroom seats. It will be home business and health departments on the Long Beach campus.

“This allows us to support dedicated faculty and staff; extend our coastal research enterprise; and transform the campus both aesthetically and functionally,” Bennett said.

Officials hope to begin construction in January and open the building in fall 2017.

University leaders and legislators said they hoped information collected by the research lab could help area businesses.

“We want the Ocean Springs Gulf Coast Research Lab to be the premier lab on the Gulf of Mexico,” said House Appropriations Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville. “We need to do that and there are a lot of reasons. The five coastal states are fighting for it and we need to be a leader in it, Southern Mississippi needs to be a leader in this.”


Information from: The Sun Herald, https://www.sunherald.com

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