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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

U. Massachusetts Heat Plant Groundbreaking Continues Despite Rain

Massachusetts Daily Collegian (U. Massachusetts)05/15/2006

(U-WIRE) AMHERST, Mass. – Wind and rain were not enough to stop about 75 state and local officials from attending a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $118.7 million central heating plant at the University of Massachusetts last Friday. The plant, fueled by natural gas and oil, will significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions currently being released by an obsolete, coal-burning facility built in the 1940s. The project is set to be completed by March of 2008.

“This is a classic example of the kind of investments we need to make in the University of Massachusetts in Amherst,” UMass President Jack M. Wilson said at the ceremony. “We are invested in the flagship campus.”

The project is part of a $2.2 billion capital plan for the five UMass campuses. According to Wilson, the state is providing 22 percent of the money, with the other 78 percent coming directly from UMass funds.

State senator and UMass alum Stanley C. Rosenberg spoke of the need for the state to provide a higher percentage of the funding for the capital plan. He believes that the state should be providing closer to two-thirds of the overall funding instead of one-fifth.

“That is a collective goal I think we should all embrace,” Rosenberg said. “So the next time we gather for another exciting groundbreaking here at Amherst, we will be talking about a state-funded project. Not funded on the backs of students and their families.”

The new plant was designed by R.G. Vanderweil Engineers out of Boston and is being built by O & G Industries. The energy facility will take up 45,000 square feet, with a 95,000-square-foot roof that will cover the building and storage tanks. It will be adjacent to the Amherst wastewater treatment plant on the western edge of campus.

“This project is one of the many projects we’re doing on campus to make sure we will be able to maintain our competitive position with our peers, building great facilities that will sustain the quality that defines this campus,” UMass Chancellor John V. Lombardi said. “It will replace a truly obsolete and historic facility.”

“This plant speaks for our future,” UMass Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Joyce M. Hatch said. “In the short term, we need it in order to keep all the projects on the way. We would be pushing the limits with the old plant.”

According to Hatch, the plant will save about 200,000 gallons of public drinking water per day by recycling and treating municipal wastewater. She also said that the switch from coal will reduce greenhouse emissions by about 75 percent.

Some of the other projects currently going on at the Amherst campus include a new $92.5 million student apartment complex and new integrated science and art buildings as well as renovation to many of the current buildings.

“The project we initiate today is but one of many exciting projects moving forward across all five of our campuses,” chairman of the UMass board of trustees James J. Karam said. “The board of trustees is committed to providing facilities that mirror the quality of our students, our faculty and our administrators.”

For more information about the heating plant and other construction projects under way at the University of Massachusetts, visit their website at www.umass.edu.