Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone says bond is needed to repair Fremont campus

By Matthew Artz, Oakland Tribune.

Sunday, October 17, 2010—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Give Lucky Lofton one hour, and he can show you a whole lot of cracked stucco and rusted pipes.

A tour of Ohlone College's Fremont campus with Lofton, the school's facilities director, reveals a cautionary tale of the challenges faced when a school is built into a hillside near a major earthquake fault.

Perhaps no one is rooting harder than Lofton for voters to pass Measure G, Ohlone College's $349 million facilities bond on the Nov. 2 ballot.

If Measure G passes, he'll have all the money he needs to repair building foundations, and the college will have enough to build new science labs, a parking garage and make additional improvements to its Fremont campus.

Although there is no organized opposition to the measure, there's also no guarantee Ohlone can muster the 55 percent needed for approval.

The bond measure comes just eight years after voters approved a $150 million bond to build Ohlone's Newark campus. Property owners in the college district, which covers Fremont, Newark and part of Union City, will continue paying back that bond through 2026.

That means if Measure G passes, property owners will be paying for two bonds on their tax bill for the next 15 years.

And although there's no organized opposition, Ohlone hasn't gotten much financial backing from community members to pass the bond.

More than one-fifth of the $111,465 raised to promote the bond has come from the bond underwriter Piper Jaffray, a Minneapolis, Minn., firm that stands to profit if the measure passes.

After 40 years, Ohlone's Fremont campus in the Mission San Jose district is in need of major infrastructure improvements, college President Gari Browning said.

Groundwater from the hills has intruded into the foundation of several campus buildings, damaging pipes, sewers and ventilation systems.

Lofton blames the water intrusion for the failure of an elevator at one of the buildings. Meanwhile, several buildings aren't accessible to students in wheelchairs, and ventilation issues are forcing the college to shut down chemistry labs, Browning said.

"As these buildings start to fail, we're going to get to the point where we can't maintain the campus," she said.

The extent of the infrastructure troubles in Fremont wasn't evident when Ohlone asked voters to approve the 2002 bond, most of which went to build the Newark campus.

Measure G would do more than pay for infrastructure improvements. The school recently approved a Fremont campus plan that includes a new science building, campus plaza, arts complex as well as more parking spaces closer to the main academic buildings. The college also wants to add parking spaces at its Newark campus.

Browning says all of the projects should be completed within 15 years after passage of Measure G.

But taxpayers will be paying for the bond measure through 2066. The reason it will take so long to pay back the funds is that Ohlone plans to issue the bonds over the course of several years, said Mike Caligari, the school's vice president of administrative services.

For homeowners, Measure G would increase property taxes by about $19.95 for every $100,000 of assessed value on their homes. That means the owner of a $400,000 home would pay nearly an additional $80 a year in property taxes while the bond is being repaid.

However through 2026, that same homeowner would be paying about $160 a year—$80 for Measure G and $80 to pay off the remainder of Ohlone's 2002 bond measure.

A significant potion of the campaign funds raised to pass Measure G has come from local and distant businesses with ties to the college, according to a recent filing statement. Locally, Fremont Bank has donated $10,000 to the campaign and Dutra Enterprises, a Fremont-based real estate firm, has donated $8,032.

Ohlone's law firm has given $10,000. Keygent, an El Segundo-based firm that has done business with Ohlone, also has given $10,000.

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-353-7002. For more Fremont news, read his blog at www.ibabuzz.com/tricitybeat.

  • Measure G
  • How much: $349 million bond
  • Entity: Ohlone College
  • Purpose: Infrastructure improvements and new facilities at the Fremont campus
  • Tax impact: Property owners would pay $80 a year for home valued at $400,000 through 2066

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