Planning could begin on scaled-back veterinary lab

When the state Board of Regents meets next week in Iowa City, Iowa State leaders will seek permission to begin planning for a $75 million Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL), an estimated 83,000- to 88,000-square-foot new building on the Veterinary Medicine campus.

The 2018 Legislature committed $63.5 million in state support to the project over six years, beginning with $1 million for project planning in the current year. Last fall, Iowa State requested $100 million in state support for a proposed $124 million lab.

Senior vice president and provost Jonathan Wickert said $75 million is the sum of the state commitment, available university funds and estimated private gifts. He said this year's planning will include an assessment of whether $75 million is adequate to address all the needs in a 2014 VDL study -- such as efficient processing of cases, biosafety and biosecurity requirements and the ability to quickly identify emerging diseases before they become widespread. Planning could consider other options -- such as VDL units for which biocontainment isn't critical remaining in the current lab space.

"Iowa State operates the only full-service and fully accredited veterinary diagnostic lab in the state," Wickert said. "It's critical to the state's $32.5 billion animal agriculture industry that we maintain and improve this service."

The VDL is housed in the College of Veterinary Medicine building, which opened in 1976. Except for a specialized biosecurity addition in 2004, the overall footprint of the lab hasn't substantially expanded or been updated since its construction. The volume of diagnostic services, research and teaching has increased dramatically since then, as has the people providing it: from 10 faculty and 20 staff in 1976 to 25 faculty and 120 technical staff last year. They processed more than 86,000 diagnostic case submissions for livestock producers in fiscal year 2017.

Both the board's property and facilities committee and the full board will review the planning request next week.

The agenda for the Sept. 12-13 meeting is online. Audio of public portions of the meeting will be livestreamed on the board's website.

Upgrade for southeast rec fields

Included in the September consent agenda for final board approval are two ISU construction projects:

  • Recreation services' plan to invest $10 million in its recreation fields east of Jack Trice Stadium. The plan reconfigures and renovates about 40 acres on the east side of University Boulevard, and adds an irrigation system, lights and restrooms. Six softball fields, eight sand volleyball courts and about a dozen soccer/football fields would be laid out north and south of a 650 parking spots (grass and gravel) and a service building. Student fees will pay for the improvements but won't go up because of them. Site work could begin in the spring, with the complex ready for use in fall 2020.
  • A steam line replacement at the Iowa State Center that services all four buildings. Iowa State's utility repair fund would cover the estimated $4.2 million cost.

FY2020 state funding requests

Requests for state support for the fiscal year that begins next July 1 are due to the state on Oct. 1. The regents will consider these FY2020 ISU requests:

  • A 4 percent increase ($7 million) to the general university operating budget, designated for student financial aid (in the absence of state financial aid designated for regent university students).
  • Flat funding for Iowa State's direct appropriation units such as the Agricultural Experiment Station.
  • Flat economic development funding.
  • A 10 percent increase ($410,000) to operating support for the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
  • $10 million (appropriation or academic building revenue bonds) for design and early construction at Parks Library. An estimated $28 million proposal would renovate 44,000 square feet of stacks space on the library's second and third floors for a student learning hub, adding an estimated 600 seats, technology-equipped group collaboration spaces and open lab/classrooms. As proposed, additional funds would be $16 million from the state in FY21 and $2 million private gifts or other funds.
  • $1.43 million for infrastructure upgrades for Iowa Public Radio, $830,000 of which would fund the replacement of WOI FM's 20-year-old antenna, transmission line, transmitter and studio-to-transmitter link.

Adding academic programs, closing centers

Iowa State also will begin the regent-level process of:

  • Adding a bachelor of science degree in cyber security engineering in the electrical and computer engineering department, College of Engineering. The degree program will give students the technical skills to work in government or industry cybersecurity positions. The proposed start date is August 2019.
  • Adding a doctor of education degree (Ed.D.) in the School of Education. In three years, the degree prepares students for leadership posts in school districts, community colleges, state departments of education, area education agencies and other education agencies. The proposed implementation date is January 2019.
  • Reorganizing the supply chain and information systems department in the Ivy College of Business to two departments: supply chain management, and information systems and business analytics. The growing academic disciplines each has sufficient students and faculty to warrant separating them, which will strengthen and give clarity to each. The proposed effective date is July 1, 2019.
  • Closing five centers: Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Ag Products (some activities absorbed by the Seed Science Center), Center for Carbon Capturing of Crops (activities ceased), Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies (functions folded into the Bioeconomy Institute in 2014), Midwest Forensics Resource Center (mission absorbed in 2015 by the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Science), and Nutrition and Wellness Research Center (activities managed by the department of food science and human nutrition). The closures would be effective upon final regents approval in November.