UGA leaders hopeful new veterinary school will be funded next year

UGA leaders hopeful new veterinary school will be funded next year

Nov 01, 2011

ATHENS, GA. — The University of Georgia (UGA) is inching forward on plans to build a new veterinary teaching hospital, and administrators are hopeful that groundbreaking could occur as early as next fall.

"It's over 30 years old, we're right in the middle of campus so it's hard for clients to get in and out, and we have no room to grow," UGA College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Sheila Allen says of the existing facility.

Faculty and staff at the 50,000-square-foot hospital can't perform large-animal MRIs, and while they can do MRIs on dogs, Allen says they have to be loaded onto a golf cart and taken across the street. The hospital has a radiation therapy unit, but it can only fit small-animal patients, she says.

UGA secured funding in 2010 for a feasibility study on the hospital expansion, but attempts to secure construction funding last year were unsuccessful.

Funding for UGA, specifically, was not turned down, Allen says, adding a host of state projects were not funded.

An "off-year" for state finances, Allen says new Gov. Nathan Deal decided against borrowing "normal" amounts for construction bonds. This year, things are looking a little better. The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia recently recommended a $206 million bond package, which contains funding requests for higher education projects across the state—including $52.3 million for the UGA veterinary school expansion.

The new teaching hospital would be moved about three miles from its current location to a university-owned pasture and would include small-animal, large-animal and equine facilities.

For its contribution, Allen says UGA raised $10 million of its $15 million fundraising goal. Several donors have promised to help the university reach its final goal within the next few months, she says.

The governor's budget recommendations should be published sometime in January, but UGA won't get the final word on whether its project will be funded until sometime next year, after the state House and Senate have their say. Ideally, Allen says if funding is approved, the veterinary college could break ground on the new hospital next fall and be open by 2014.