$132.5 million bond for UK medical research center heads to governor

03/03/2015 09:12 PM

FRANKFORT – Despite the fact that it’s a non-budget year, the state Senate has passed legislation to fund half the cost of a multi-million dollar research building at the University of Kentucky.

House Bill 298, sponsored by Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, authorizes the issuance of $132.5 million in bonds for construction of the building. The University of Kentucky will fund the other half of the cost as well as any other related expenses.

The building, which will be located along South Limestone, near the College of Pharmacy, will house researchers who will work together to combat some of the leading killer diseases in the state including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, says the center will not only have obvious health benefits for citizens of the commonwealth, but economic benefits as well.

“It will create an annual $116.2 million in total economic impact,” Kerr said. “That will be an additional 1,623 jobs and a state and local tax impact of $5.6 million.”

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto has maintained that the university is out of research space and a delay in building a new research center could hamper efforts to keep and attract top scientists to the Lexington campus.

Sen. Reggie Thomas said that center is needed to try to offset Kentucky’s dismal health rankings.

“We all are aware of the abysmal health statistics that affect Kentucky,” said Thomas, D-Lexington. “We need this money so that we can house the space now, build this building to address the heath discrepancies that the senator from Fayette-12 acknowledged.”

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, said that partnering with the University of Kentucky to build the new research center is a smart investment for the commonwealth in an effort to allow Kentuckians to live longer has more productive lives.

“The great benefits that we have seen from the Markey Cancer Center near the University of Kentucky, that we may well be on the edge of resolving a lot of the issues that deal with cancer,” Buford said. “We’ve already seen many individuals who have gone through these programs, not only extend their life for a certain period of time but begin to lead a normal life.”

The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. If approved, the university will hire an architect as soon as possible, finalize plans within several months and break ground within the year.


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