By Cliff Mathieson
Cuesta’s administration has been working hard for over a year to make sure that the school’s 2014 bond—known as Measure L—would pass. At the Nov. 4 midterm election, 61.73 percent of the county’s voters decided to support Measure L, which means Cuesta will soon be receiving $275 million in bond dollars.
After news of the win came in, Cuesta held a party in the Associated Students Auditorium, complete with celebratory cake and songs like Queen’s “We are the Champions,” and James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”
The school can’t bask in its victory for too long though, now that the administration has a fresh mountain of work in ahead of it. Making sure that over a quarter of a billion dollars is spent as optimally as possible is no small task.
“Thank you for all the hard work that you’ve done, and all the hard work that you’re about to do,” Cuesta president Gil Stork said at the Measure L celebration.
That upcoming hard work is mainly planning; Cuesta wants—and in some cases needs—to get as many of its bond projects started as soon as possible. That means concurrently deciding which rooms are in direst need of repairs, finalizing plans on five new buildings, figuring out what tech upgrades will get the school the most bang for its buck and making general decisions about where to channel this massive influx of funds.
The bond money isn’t a blank check, however; Cuesta can only spend the cash on “capital projects” like new buildings, repairs, technology upgrades and paying off old capital debt. The bond projects also have to go through a bond oversight committee before the school can put them into action.
Cuesta’s most pressing problem is its modular (or portable) buildings. Due to a state education code, the school has to replace all of its portables—that’s around 60,000 square feet of space—by the end of Sept. 2015. According to Stork, moving these classrooms and offices will cause a lot of re-shuffling on campus.
“Pack lightly,” Stork said. “Many of you are going to have to pack up and move, maybe several times.”
That’s because even though Cuesta’s maintenance team has already prepared plans for the new buildings, there’s no way they will be complete by the Sept. deadline. Instead, many classes will be moved to temporary classrooms that the school will be installing until construction on the permanent structures is complete. Terry Reece, Cuesta’s director of facilities services, said that he expects the first of these temporary buildings to show up on campus in within eight weeks.
According to Reece, the school is already way ahead of the curve on the lengthy building process for the new permanent structures.
“The first two buildings go to the state architect [who has to approve all community college structures] in April, and it takes them about six months to come back,” Reece said. “So we look to go out to bid for construction in fall of 2016. That’s about 18 months faster than our competition out there who haven’t got their plans started yet.”
The new SLO campus will be around 36,000 square feet and will fill most of Cuesta’s classroom needs, and the second floor will also house around 55 new offices, Reece said.
The new Paso building will be around 55,000 square feet and will be the primary focal point of the campus. “It will definitely say ‘you are at Cuesta college,’” Reece said. It will house a culinary arts department, a bookstore, administration offices and student services.
The plans for the rest of the bond money aren’t as solid as the building proposals yet, but according to Reece, Cuesta should have detailed goals set for Cuesta’s new technology infrastructure and building repairs by the end of the year.