Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone considers asking voters for new bond

By Matthew Artz, Oakland Tribune.

Thursday, December 10, 2010—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Ohlone College may put a bond measure on the November 2010 ballot just one year after spending the final dollars of a $150 million bond approved by voters nine years ago.

The community college district, with campuses in Fremont and Newark, recently commissioned a poll that found that 58 percent of district voters would likely support a $350 million bond measure primarily to upgrade facilities at Ohlone's Fremont campus.

The bond would need a 55 percent majority to pass.

School officials say several buildings on the Fremont campus are approaching their 40-year mark and need major renovations.

"Spending the money is not the challenge," Ohlone Board Chairman John Weed said. "We'll have to make the case that the needs are there."

Ohlone's previous bond, which won with 56 percent of the vote in 2002, paid for the purchase and construction of the Newark campus, as well as several smaller projects on the Fremont campus, including the new Student Services Building, which opened this year.

A 2010 bond wouldn't include projects with the same allure as a new campus.

The money would largely go to refurbish or rebuild buildings at the Fremont campus, several of which don't meet the latest seismic and fire safety standards and aren't fully accessible to disabled students, Ohlone President Gari Browning said. New science facilities would be a top priority and structured parking garages are a possibility, Weed said.

No decision has been made to move ahead with a bond measure, Browning said.

The college is preparing a master plan for its facilities, which will help determine how much money the district might seek.

The bond could be used only for building projects and not for closing future operating budget shortfalls caused by state funding cuts. The college still hasn't developed its property fronting Mission Boulevard in Fremont, which could have provided revenue independent from the state.

Ohlone, which has had to scale back classes by 10 percent this semester, narrowly averted layoffs this year. Moving ahead with a bond measure could lead to the awkward situation of planning for millions of dollars in new construction while reducing its staff, Browning acknowledged.

Such a situation would not please Linda Evers, president of the union representing Ohlone support staff. However, Evers, a lab technician, said the college does need to upgrade its facilities.

"They are desperately in need of new science classrooms," she said.

Browning said the college studied community support for a $350 million bond—more than double the 2002 bond measure—because it doesn't want to have to go back to voters for an additional bond anytime soon.

The survey, conducted by the opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates earlier this year, found that 71 percent of respondents viewed Ohlone favorably and 74 percent viewed state budget cuts as a serious problem for the district.

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