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September 12, 2013

UPJ Murtha center project reduced

A controversial plan to build a structure on the Pitt-Johnstown campus to house the memorabilia and papers of the late John P. Murtha has been scaled back.

A $28.53 million John P. Murtha Center for Public Service project that was to include an $18.63 million building and $9.9 million for UPJ’s nursing program (see March 22, 2012, University Times) has been nixed in favor of a $20 million project that encompasses an 8,000-square-foot addition to Krebs Hall and renovations to labs there and in UPJ’s Engineering and Science Building.

The Krebs Hall addition would include a multipurpose room, museum space and offices as part of the John P. Murtha Center for Public Service and National Competitiveness. Half the project funding would come through the state’s redevelopment assistance capital program with the University funding the other half through long-term bonds and University reserves/gifts, according to a spokesperson from the governor’s budget office.

The University’s fiscal year 2014 capital budget includes the $20 million project among this year’s education and general construction projects. Sources of funding include $10 million from the state, $6 million in auxiliary debt and $4 million in gifts/other funding. (See July 25 University Times.)

The tentative project schedule calls for the design phase to begin this month, with bids and awards completed by November 2014. Construction of the Murtha center is scheduled to take place December 2014-September 2015, with the Engineering and Science Building work to be done in two phases between December 2014 and August 2016 and physics lab construction to occur May-August 2016.

No additional details were available from UPJ sources.

Murtha, a Democrat who represented Pennsylvania’s 12th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1974 until his death in 2010, was a UPJ alumnus. The University was selected to house Murtha’s papers.

Gov. Ed Rendell drew criticism for authorizing state funding in 2010 for the proposed project at UPJ and for an Arlen Specter Library at Philadelphia University amid state budget woes, as did a $10 million earmark for the center in the 2011 proposed federal defense spending bill.

In 2010, Murtha’s family established the John P. Murtha Foundation to raise funds for the UPJ center. According to its 2012 federal 990 tax form, the foundation had $733,381 in assets.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 46 Issue 2

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