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State Board leery of UI Post Falls lab plan

Idaho's State Board of Education, meeting yesterday in Idaho Falls, backed upgrades in the University of Idaho's athletic facilities but was leery of a UI proposal to establish a new nonprofit research lab in Post Falls; that proposal was delayed until the board's August meeting. Board members noted that issues of mismanagement, nepotism, misuse of resources and allegations of grant fraud plagued the lab's predecessor, the Center for Advanced Microelectronics and Biomolecular Research. The board also approved one-year contract extensions, without any raises, for all university presidents, the Lewiston Tribune reports. Click below to read a full report from Tribune reporter Joel Mills.

Ed Board approves UI's plans for facilities

By Joel Mills
The Lewiston Morning Tribune, Idaho

Jun. 18--The Idaho State Board of Education gave easy approval to the University of Idaho's plans to upgrade some of its premier athletic facilities, but hesitated on another major proposal to establish a new nonprofit research lab in Post Falls.

Meeting Thursday at Eastern Idaho Technical College in Idaho Falls, the board gave unanimous support to UI plans to reconstruct its aging outdoor track and field facility, add luxury seating and a new press box to the Kibbie Dome and enter into a five-year, $1 million sponsorship deal with Litehouse Inc., the Sandpoint-based salad dressing manufacturer.

But board spokesman Mark Browning said board members decided to hold off on a vote on the proposed research lab until at least August because they were wary of the troubled history of its predecessor, the Center for Advanced Microelectronics and Biomolecular Research.

''They just wanted to make sure that as this thing proceeds, there wasn't the possibility of having any kinds of challenges like you had with CAMBR," Browning said.

The board asked the university to come back at the August meeting with more detail before it will consider approving what the UI calls the Laboratory for Applied Science and Research.

Since it was founded in 2001, CAMBR has produced low-power, radiation-tolerant electronics for government agencies like NASA. But it has also been bogged down by issues of mismanagement, nepotism, misuse of resources and allegations of grant fraud.

By changing CAMBR into a nonprofit corporation, the UI hopes to give it some separation from university operations while allowing it greater flexibility to develop technology and transfer it to the private sector.

For the most part, the athletic plans had a much easier day in front of the board. It voted 6-0 to approve the $2.5 million reconstruction of the Dan O'Brien Outdoor Track and Field Complex, and a $5.3 million Kibbie Dome upgrade.

Bonds will be sold to pay for the track project, while the Kibbie Dome enhancements are to be paid for with donated funds.

But the board grilled the UI over a projected $600,000 shortfall in its Athletic Department budget, Browning said. The department's budget was supposed to get a rubber stamp as part of the board's consent agenda, but it was pulled from that list at the last minute.

''The discussion was around how you operate with that kind of deficit," Browning said. "Do you carry it over, and how do you categorize it? And how far and how aggressively can you operate when carrying a deficit?"

Still, the board approved the UI's athletic budget for the coming fiscal year.

In other business:

The board gave one-year contract extensions to the presidents at the UI, Idaho State University, Boise State University and EITC. No raises were given.

''This vote should not be construed as any indication we think any of our presidents are not doing a good job," board President Richard Westerberg of Preston said in a statement. "We simply cannot justify any increases in compensation while so many others are taking cuts, furloughs and more."

UI president Duane Nellis salary remained at $335,000 for the coming fiscal year.

The board bade farewell to Lewis-Clark State College President Dene Thomas, who will become president at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., on July 1.

''She's one of a kind and we as a state and a board have been so lucky to have worked with her," Boise board member Milford Terrell said of Thomas' 28 years in Idaho education.

Provost Tony Fernandez will serve as interim president while a search committee spends the next year looking for Thomas' successor.

To see more of The Lewiston Morning Tribune or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to

(c) 2010, The Lewiston Morning Tribune, Idaho

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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