Montana State University’s chances for winning $20 million to renovate the old Romney Gym building appeared to fade Friday when the state House voted 72-27 to accept the Senate’s changes to a major building bill, a key step before the bill can head to the governor’s desk.

Rep. Franke Wilmer, D-Bozeman, an MSU professor, told fellow lawmakers she was “very disappointed” the Romney renovation money was excluded from House Bill 5. She said MSU student enrollment has grown dramatically, and the former gym in the center of campus will continue to “deteriorate and be useless,” instead of becoming a center for student services like tutoring.

But Wilmer and lawmakers from Helena, who were disappointed that $23 million to build a new Montana historical museum was also excluded, said they would vote for the bill, because there are only a few days left in the Legislature and the bill does include millions for other college campus buildings, which would create jobs.

“We’ve taken our best shot,” said Rep. Galen Hollenbaugh, D-Helena.

Tracy Ellig, MSU’s lobbyist, said before the vote he’s still optimistic about Romney. “Nothing’s over until the Legislature adjourns,” he said.


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