Construction is happening on all of the Storrs-based University of Connecticut’s locations – including the Waterbury campus – as a result of the UConn 2000 program, a $2.3 billion, 20-year investment by the state in the university’s infrastructure.

It’s no piece of cake for parents to send their children away to college, and after years of issues with the UConn 2000 construction program, Gov. M. Jodi Rell wants to make sure that unsafe buildings at the University of Connecticut aren’t on parents’ lists of worries. Rell last week ordered Public Safety Commissioner Leonard Boyle to review plans of any UConn building where students live or study that was built under the construction program.

The governor also is hoping that recommendations made by a special panel that investigated the new construction – particularly the implementation of a committee that will oversee all new projects – will be carried out soon, according to Rell spokesman Judd Everhart.

The construction program, which began 10 years ago and was controlled largely by the university, has been plagued by questions surrounding fair labor practices, cost overruns and, most recently, fire and safety code violations. Firefighters are on round-the-clock duty until more sprinklers are installed at one $40 million student housing complex, according to the Associated Press.

“I am tired of the drumbeat of news reports about buildings that do not meet safety codes – especially when those buildings are structures where students live or attend classes,” Rell said in a prepared statement. “These are our sons and daughters. The parents of Connecticut and elsewhere have a right to know they are sending their children somewhere safe when they send them off to school.

“I want to know – and I want students and parents to know – that these buildings are safe. If they are not, then I want corrective actions taken immediately or the buildings closed until they can be made safe. I will not settle for anything less than an assurance from the university that student safety is uncompromised.”

UConn 2000 is a $2.3 billion, 20-year investment by the state in the university’s infrastructure, according to the program’s Web site. Construction is happening on all of the Storrs-based university’s campuses.

Rell’s order means that UConn will be required to certify that each building was built in strict accordance with its plans. Boyle and officials from his agency will confirm that plans comply with state fire and building codes.

“This is not about assigning fault or figuring out what went wrong – the commission I established to look into the management of the UConn 2000 and the 21st Century UConn programs will report to me this week and we will move aggressively to resolve those issues,” Rell said in a prepared statement. “Today’s actions are about safety: I want to know that students are living and studying in safety.”

As of press time, the public safety commissioner had not yet reported back to the governor.

The UConn 2000 project includes new dorms, dining halls, science buildings and academic facilities at the Storrs campus, and improvements at the five regional campuses, according to the AP. State legislators originally allowed the university to choose all contractors and manage projects with no outside oversight in hopes of avoiding any delays.

After audits and at least one report from a whistleblower, the governor established a commission in April to investigate the construction practices at the university. The central recommendation of the commission was to establish an independent committee to oversee all new construction. The governor would get three appointments to the seven-member commission, according to Everhart.

“The governor is hoping the recommendations will be implemented as soon as possible,” he said.

“I’ll leave it to others to decide whether it was a mistake to give all of the flexibility and responsibility [to UConn] 10 years ago, but that isn’t the way things should be run for the next 10 years,” Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Pelto, co-chairman of the commission appointed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell earlier this year to examine the problem, told the AP. That commission presented its findings two weeks ago and concluded that greater oversight and fiscal accountability is needed as the university finishes the $1 billion worth of remaining work. Rell said the panel’s report shows “an astounding failure of oversight and management” of the construction program, according to the AP.

“Corners were cut. Problems were ignored. Wrong decisions were made,” the governor said.