UAMS breaks ground on $150 million energy project at Little Rock campus

by Roby Brock (roby@talkbusiness.net) 631 views 

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) broke ground Wednesday (Nov. 20) in a ceremony marking the start of a more than $150 million energy project, including a new $49 million electrical power plant.

In a groundbreaking ceremony at the Little Rock UAMS campus, hospital and construction officials, city and state leaders, and members of the UA Board of Trustees took part in turning dirt for the project expected to take three years to complete.

The project is being paid for by a bond issue approved this year by the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees and is expected to result in $4.8 million in annual savings over the next 20 years.

“Moving forward with this work, we are seeing to the health of the university’s physical plant, so UAMS can continue to focus vigorously on the health of Arkansans, the education of its students and the innovation of its researchers,” UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson said. “Part of our responsibility is being a good steward of the public’s dollars and of our finances in the most efficient way. This will help us do that.”

The energy project will enable UAMS to address $101 million in maintenance needs, energy efficiency measures and rerouting Cedar Street onto a multilane expansion of Pine Street. The city of Little Rock is contributing $4.6 million to the projected $12 million cost of relocation and other street improvements.

Arkansas Energy and Environment Secretary Becky Keogh said the UAMS project is landmark.

“We value partnerships that drive sustainability and advance both health and environmental outcomes for the state. This energy project is not only forward-thinking, but it represents the largest investment and projected savings for a single entity within Arkansas Energy and Environment’s Energy Performance Contracting Program portfolio,” Keogh said.

Over the three years of the project, UAMS will construct a new power plant on the east side of the campus, upgrade control systems, interior and exterior lighting, electrical systems, mechanical systems and building infrastructure. The new electrical generator plant will provide 100% back-up power for the UAMS campus, including the cooling system and research facilities. Currently, the UAMS West Central Energy Plant provides that backup power for UAMS inpatient facilities.

Christina Clark, MBA, UAMS vice chancellor for institutional support services and chief operating officer, tells Talk Business & Politics that the savings from the contract is guaranteed for the next two decades.

“Using guaranteed capital and savings in operating costs, UAMS is positioning itself to successfully weather the perfect storm of declining reimbursements and ever-increasing costs, challenges faced by many academic medical centers nationwide,” Clark said, adding that Bernhard Energy, one of the contractors on the project, will insure that the $4.8 million in annual savings will be met.

As a major employer of high-paying healthcare jobs, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. said he appreciated UAMS’ contributions to the city’s workforce. He said it made it easy to justify the investment in the street improvement projects.

“For 140 years, UAMS and the city of Little Rock have worked together on a shared mission — the well-being of the people who live and work here. We’re glad today to join again with the university in a project that will help ensure that mission’s continued success for the city’s people and for all Arkansans,” Scott said.

The project team consists of all Arkansas companies including Bernhard Energy, Bernhard TME, CDI, Clark Contractors, Kirchner Architecture and Clear Energy.

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