campus construction

Some campus buildings may have to wait as Measure M funds tighten up.

Despite Orange Coast College’s $315 million share of a 2012 bond measure, campus projects such as a new Chemistry building, a new Dance and Performing Arts building and upgrades to the west side of the campus — including the Skill Center and Maintenance and Operations — funds are running out and it may be years before they can proceed.

The bond measure, known as Measure M, was approved by voters and allocated nearly $700 million to the Coast Community College District in 2012. OCC’s share of the pot went to completed projects like the MBCC building, and planning for a new Literature, Language and Social and Behavioral Science building and the in-the-works state-of-the-art Planetarium, among others.

But, officials say, the funds are just about depleted and other planned for projects will have to wait until state funds can be received.

“It takes a long time. Chemistry especially,” Rich Pagel, OCC’s vice president of administrative services said. “They’re in a 40 to 50-year-old building and they see the other buildings going up around them and they’re like, ‘How come I can’t get a new facility for my students?’”

The Chemistry, Dance and Performing Arts departments and buildings on the west side of campus, which faculty have said are deteriorating, dated structures, were pushed back to Vision 2030, as the Measure M funds designated to those projects have been allocated to others earlier in the queue.

According to Dean of Math and Sciences Tara Giblin, $14 million was initially earmarked for a new Chemistry building but Pagel said those funds have since been redistributed despite contingency planning.

Giblin said the Chemistry department is growing, and the space they have can’t keep up. Echoing the voices of other faculty members, she said there are safety concerns that stem from having too many students in any given classrooms — some of which date back to the 1970s.

The Chemistry department is working with the administration to ensure that everything is being fixed when it needs to be and that it’s all up to code, by bringing in specialists and upgrading ventilation, both Giblin and Pagel said.

Giblin added that due to the nature of the discipline, equipment needs to be modernized in order to keep things running smoothly.

“We hope they continue to make the Chemistry building a priority. Our courses are in high demand. It’s a high demand area and we know we can make good use of a new, larger and more modern facility,” Giblin said.

According to Pagel, the Chemistry building has the best opportunity to receive state funding.

Plans now have $14 million for the building coming from the state and $20 million set aside from Measure M. However, state funding can take years to process.

“If we decide to go ahead and start the chemistry project, the state of California will wash their hands of it and tell us ‘you started it so you finish it.’ So we have to be patient,” Pagel said.

Plans for building the current Library began in 1993, but it wasn’t completed until 2008. The ABC building, which was also received partial state funding, took less time because the window of time was right, Pagel said.

“When the window is right, when the winds are moving in the right direction, we can get (the funding) done quickly,” Pagel said.

State funding for the Chemistry building would be received through Proposition 51, which passed in 2014 and authorized the state to allocate $2 billion for community college construction.

Additionally, of the $50.5 million budget for the soon-to-be-built Literature, Language and Social and Behavioral Science building, $31 million came from the state with the rest covered through Measure M.

Each fiscal year, the governor approves certain plans and determines how quickly the Proposition 51 bonds will be dispersed. Pagel is hopeful that in this new budget year, those funds will be allocated for the Chemistry building.

The new Chemistry building is also being delayed because it is expected to be in the footprint of the old Literature and Language building, which first has to be torn down, he said.

In the fall, there will be another master planning effort, which will use the Facilities Planning Committee as a participatory governance, including faculty, students, staff and administration.

As Vision 2030 is planned, Chemistry, Dance and the west side planning will move to the top of the queue, ensuring their completion in the next decade. Over the summer, a feasibility study will be completed for Dance and Performing Arts, looking at two different locations to decide which is more appropriate for a new facility.

As for the Chemistry building, a project proposal will be due with the state in August. An outside team is being brought in to help with the administrative document, Pagel said.

“Everybody wants it today. With facilities, it takes years sometimes. All we have to do is look at our Library, the ABC building or the MBCC. We will do it, it just takes time,” he said.

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