Editorial: Research foundation should cut its losses

The White House has included in its dead-on-arrival budget a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to build a laboratory and research facilities — currently housed in leased space on the UNLV campus — at the 122-acre UNLV Harry Reid Research & Technology Park at Sunset Road and Durango Boulevard just off the I-215 beltway in Southwest Las Vegas.

According to the park’s website, the land for the park was conveyed to the UNLV Research Foundation by Congress with the support of Sen. Reid on June 22, 2005, because Reid saw the benefit of UNLV having a “technology research center” to support both UNLV’s research and Nevada’s economic growth. “In recognition of Senator Reid’s support for UNLV, the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) and the Park’s conveyance to the UNLV Research Foundation, NSHE Regents made the decision to include Senator Reid as an important part of the Park’s name,” the website states.

Paying no heed whatsoever to the NSHE’s “Procedures & Guidelines Manual” that categorically states:

The
naming
of
a
building,
room,
part
of
building,
or
public
space
shall
not
be
considered
under
the
following
conditions,
if
it
is
to
be
named
after
a
person
or
persons:

i.
The
person
is
currently
employed
by
the
NSHE.

ii.
The
person
is
currently
serving
on
the
Board
of
Regents.

iii.
The
person
is
an
elected
public
official.

The Environmental Studies building at UNLV is also named for Reid despite the manual’s prohibition.

For nearly nine years the research park has stood empty behind fancy signs and well-maintained desert landscape, sucking tax money every year.

The UNLV Research Foundation contracted with the Commercial Development and Management Corp., a nonprofit, to handle subleasing, marketing, infrastructure construction and management services. “All business interactions for the Park will be conducted through the CDMC, and therefore will be confidential,” the park website assures potential customers about their dealings with a tax-funded entity.

According to a newspaper story in 2009 the Foundation had already burned through all but about $890,000 of a $5 million award. There was nothing to show for it then or now, even though Harry Reid presented the Foundation with a check for $2 million in October 2008 — tax money, not his money.

According to its IRS form 990, Commercial Development and Management by the end of 2012, the latest data available, had $8,840 in assets, though it paid its executive director Ronald Brooks a salary of $89,160.

Belts are a little tighter now, because back in 2009 the company paid its two principles — Bud Pittinger, listed as executive director at UNLV Research Foundation, and Jennifer Wikler, listed as director of marketing at Commercial Development and Management Corp. — $227,960 and $79,662, respectively. The address for the company listed on the park website is across the street from the park but is now occupied by Red Falcon Equity.

The UNLV Research Foundation on the other hand, as of the end of 2011, the latest IRS 990 on file, had $3.76 million in assets and paid its executive director Nancy Strouse more than $200,000 that year.

A paved road and a lot of money are the only things running through the UNLV Harry Reid Research & Technology Park. It is doubtful the money will be found for the EPA to build there either.

The UNLV Research Foundation should just sell this land and stop wasting taxpayer money on this losing proposition. — TM

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