IHL commissioner given signing power for USM recovery - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

IHL commissioner given signing power for USM recovery

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

An emergency meeting of the IHL board Wednesday addressed the crisis facing USM in the aftermath of Sunday's tornado.

The College Board took steps to make it easier to get the University of Southern Mississippi back on its feet.

"Today's action really helped us to be able to move very quickly," said Institutions of Higher Learning Commissioner Dr. Hank Bounds.

Bounds was given authority by the College Board to make emergency purchases and sign contracts to aid in the university's efforts to rebuild.

The members approved the request effective until their April meeting.

Bounds said a pressing need is for classroom space with the destruction of the Jazz building and loss of 87 class sections.

"We'll lease in the neighborhood of 30 portable buildings and so there's obviously a set up cost to that that will be several hundred thousand dollars, and then there will be a monthly lease," said the commissioner.

The tornado impacted mainly the south end of the campus.

"Once the tornado left we had rain for three days, two or three days and so had to deal with inches and inches of rain over that time and so it made the process more difficult," added Bounds.

Officials had no preliminary damage figures but say the loss will be in the tens of millions.

The university will turn to MEMA and federal assistance for debris removal costs.

"I'd think all of us can commend the employees, faculty and administrators at USM for how quickly they came together and got everything prepared to open class tomorrow," said IHL Board President Ed Blakeslee.

Meanwhile the university's new president, Dr. Rodney Bennett, was scheduled to begin April first but has been at the university all week seeing firsthand the major undertaking that lies ahead for his administration.

The recovery is aided by USM's $500 million dollars insurance coverage that officials said will more than cover all damage.

The rebuilding process is expected to take over a year.

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