Big changes are planned for the West Central Research and Extension Center.

Several infrastructure projects are in the works, which will allow the center to expand its studies and programs.

"The biggest upgrade will be the demolition of the old dairy barn and construction of a new 75-foot by 40-foot entomology building in its place," said Bob Skates, facilities project manager.

According to WCREC files, the Nebraska Legislature appropriated $17,500 to establish dairy work at the center in 1913. A herd of Holstein-Friesian cows was assembled to demonstrate management, feeding and breeding practices.

"Ground broke on the barn in 1914," Skates said. "It was the first agriculture building out here. By 1968 all the animals had been transferred to Mead. We've been trying to define a use for the dairy barn ever since."

Until recently, it has been used for storage. Crews are in the process of cleaning it out so it can be razed this summer.

"It's unsafe at this point," Skates said. "It was built out of red clay tile that fractured in numerous places. Without spending large amounts of funds, it would be hard to correct the structural problems."

According to Skates, the total cost of its replacement will be about $375,000. Completion is expected by 2015.

"Scientists will use the new facility to study bugs that prey on crops," Skates said. "An agroecosystem ecologist and a technician will be hired to work there."

An effort is underway to save the horse barn, built in 1919. Skates said the structure is good, but the exterior doors, windows and soffits need attention.

"The building is unique in the fact that it's poured concrete from the ground up," Skates said. "As far as we can tell, it's the only barn-style state building like that. It's currently used for livestock entomology and the soil department."

He said $90,000 for the upgrades was requested from the 309 Task Force, which funds improvements for state buildings.

"We use that a lot," Skates said. "It's also funding a $250,000 million project for us. We're replacing the roofs of seven buildings at the research center and seven more at the Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory north of Whitman."

Also this summer, a 50-foot by 38-foot wing will be added to the northwest corner of the Snyder building, the office complex for the WCREC. The goal is to create eight new offices for graduate students.

"Right now, they are crowded into other work areas, so we're in desperate need of more space," Skates said. "We want to grow that program to 45 students. We hope to break ground on the addition the first of August and be done by November."

The final project will be the construction of a greenhouse on the east end of the wind tunnel. It starts the first of July.

"The greenhouse will be used to grow the crops used in the wind tunnel," Skates said. "Otherwise, staff goes to a field and digs them up. This way, soil won't have to be disturbed, and the plants can be closely monitored."

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