State Board approves University of Idaho utility plant lease agreement

The State Board of Education approved a 50-year, $225 million lease agreement for the University of Idaho’s steam plant and utility system Monday.

Under the agreement with Sacryr Plenary Utility Partners Idaho LLC, the university will invest an up-front payment of $225 million. University officials expect the investment to generate $6 million annually, which will go to fund strategic initiative and student scholarships. They said the public-private partnership is one of several steps the university has taken to improve its financial situation.

“The P3 agreement will allow the university to better invest in the student and research endeavors that have been part of our land-grant mission for more than 130 years,” University of Idaho President Scott Green said in a news release. “In addition to scholarship support that will improve the go-on rate in Idaho, the transaction creates a concessionaire-paid maintenance plan for our steam plant and utility system that will free up state funding for other projects.”

Last month, the university announced it had turned its financial situation around, covering $40 million in operating losses and turning that into a surplus of $90,000.

As part of the agreement, the university will pay the annual utility and operations fees to the concessionaire.

Online Idaho update

In other action Monday, the State Board approved Online Idaho as the name for the higher education digital campus the state is developing with federal CARES Act funding.

Board members also approved contracts with Instructure to make the Canvas Learning Management System available for common access for all of Idaho’s public higher education institutions.

The board unanimously approved contracts with Instructure for years two and three of the program for $1.4 million. That brings the total expenditures with Instructure for three years of access to Canvas to $2.4 million.

State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said the state is eying having students be enrolled at the beginning of the new year.

“What a wonderful example of cooperation and taking advantage of circumstances and some stimulus funds,” Crtichfield said.

The State Board approved the initial implementation plan for Online Idaho during a special board meeting on July 9.





Clark Corbin

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