Money spent on U of M president’s home questioned again

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Who’s to say the University of Minnesota president’s mansion didn’t need a half million dollars for renovations, including a second kitchen. But timing is everything in the world of public opinion.

KSTP reports the U is spending $550,000 “to fix the pool, summer house and adding a second kitchen in the Eastcliff mansion. The second kitchen is needed because the University president needs privacy “while parties are catered out of the main kitchen. U officials say the pool and summer house are falling apart and are in need of a complete renovation.”

The mansion is more than just the president’s living area. The university holds other functions there, too. Some involve the person who lives there; many do not.

According to a November article from the U of M Daily, the Brooks family — who donated the house to the university in 1958 — are picking up 60% of the tab, and private donors are paying for the rest.

But KSTP’s report says $215,000 in public money is being used on the project

“There are two projects underway: summer house restoration ($450,000) and addition of a kitchen in the private residence ($100,000),” University of Minnesota spokesman Daniel Wolter said in an e-mail this morning. “Of this, $335,000 was raised from private sources (a gift from the Brooks family and private donations to Friends of Eastcliff). The remaining portion is University funds.”

“The project did evolve between the Daily coverage in November and when the Board acted in March. So, I do believe KSTP had the overall numbers correct,” he said.

The university spent $640,000 on repairs when president Nils Hasselmo left the U in the mid-’90s. “If you have to live in public housing, this is the best,” Hasselmo said about his digs.

In 1988, money spent on the residence helped bring down then-president Ken Keller. He resigned amid a $1.5 million renovation of the mansion and a $200,000 renovation of his office.

That led Gov. Rudy Perpich to pull his request for $23.1 million to fund a program at the U for raising standards. Some digging into the renovations revealed the University had $53 million sitting in a reserve fund.

Want an inside look at the place? Here’s an online tour, courtesy of the U’s Web site.

  • John P.

    The repeated claims in the video that there is “no effect on tuition” strikes me as pure spin.

    Money spent on the mansion is not available for tuition relief, reducing class size, or anything else.

  • http://digs.by/lsuOvn Albatross

    It’s deja vu back to the 1980’s! This is the kind of aristocratic arrogance that led to Keller’s downfall…

  • John O.

    This highlights the primary reason that I withhold contributing to my Alma Mater. The arrogance of the leadership at the U of M in recent times is almost breathtaking.

  • Bob Moffitt

    It should be noted that the story that led to the Ken Keller’s departure did not come from KSTP or MPR, but rather the Minnesota Daily, the student newspaper. Wonder what those kids are up to now?

  • Ron

    John P. is quite correct.

    And, regarding Bob Moffit’s comment, the Minnesota Daily has been ahead of the professional media on several major stories in the past few years. Think about what the Daily would find at the university if they had the resources of an MPR, KSTP or StarTrib.

  • Remodeler 101

    A residential kitchen should not cost 100 grand – should be able to create one from scratch with all appliances, wiring and plumbing for under 40K and still have decent materials. Someone is getting ripped off!