The state Board of Regents has endorsed the idea of letting the Utah County Commission buy the big, empty Signetics building in Orem in part for community college use, but the board stopped short of setting any dollar figures.

The board endorsed the concept of a purchase but backed away from financing details despite being lobbied by a contingent of eager buy-Signetics supporters at the board's Tuesday meeting.The sole dissenting vote was cast by regent Ian Cumming, Salt Lake City, who has long taken issue with any Signetics purchase for fear the higher education system would end up with a giant white elephant.

Other regents have been more receptive to the idea of buying or leasing all or part of the building to ease the strain on fast-growing Utah Valley State College.

With a speech and slide show, Utah County Commissioner Gary Herbert outlined plans to buy the property for $9 million for use by several entities, including UVSC, the National Guard and Brigham Young University, which could establish a museum for its collection of dinosaur bones now stored under Cougar Stadium.

Other parts of the huge building might be occupied by Utah County offices and some other organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America.

Of the $9 million price tag - which still is still being negotiated - Herbert said he would like to see $4 million paid by the state, $960,000 by the National Guard and the remaining $4 million handled through Utah County revenue bonds.

Herbert indicated this was a win-win situation: The museum would be a world-class facility, due to the quality of BYU's collection, and would also be a non-polluting revenue generator for the area by attracting tourists.

Meanwhile, UVSC would gain needed space, and the National Guard would have some place for its linguistics program. And a giant building that has been sitting idle for four years would be in use again, but in a fashion acceptable to neighbors.

But there are lots of other factors at work:

- The Fred Meyer Co. is seriously interested in buying the building.

- The Orem City Council must vote whether to rezone the property for commercial use.

- Orem's mayor wants answers to several questions (which one state senator said were based on inaccurate information) regarding parking, square footage, costs and other matters.

- Utah County state legislators plan to lobby for more money so UVSC can buy and remodel part of the building. The legislature set aside $2 million last year for these purposes, and that money remains unspent.

- The Utah County Commission must line up other purchasers, firm up museum details with BYU and try to get some funding from other sources, including private donations.

- Higher education officials are divided as to which programs should go where. There is talk of constructing another $1.5 million building on UVSC land west of I-15 for the fire science, lineman training and professional-driving programs. This would be in addition to the Signetics purchase, but not everyone supports the idea of both endeavors.

The Signetics building was formerly used to make computer chips but has been empty since 1990.

Last year, UVSC officials pitched the idea of buying the building to ease campus crowding and permit the sale of a one-building satellite campus in Provo that was too small and needed expensive repairs.

The regents narrowly turned down that proposal, but influential Utah County state legislators managed to get the $2 million in state money set aside for some type of Signetics purchase and/or renovation.