Round 2 – Sierra College again asks voters to finance local expansion
For Sierra College supporters, the chance to approve $44.4 million in bonds for the Nevada County campus represents a second shot at completing unfinished business.
In March, Nevada County voters joined their counterparts in Placer, El Dorado and Sacramento counties in rejecting Measure E, a mammoth $384 million bond to fix and expand the aging four-campus system.
Supporters of the scaled-down Measure G bond are quick to point out that while Measure E garnered only 51 percent of the vote within the district’s four-county region – it needed 55 percent to pass – the margin of defeat in Nevada County was just 42 votes.
Such numbers are the reason for optimism by Measure G supporters, despite a stated opposition penned by the Nevada County Republican Party and included in widely distributed voter information guides.
This time, the vote for Measure G will come strictly from those culled within the boundaries of western Nevada County’s Nevada Joint Union High School District.
The bond would cost homeowners an estimated $19.75 per $100,000 of assessed property valuation annually, according to the college district’s projections.
Voters in eastern Nevada County will be asked to approve $35 million in bonds for Measure H, for land and a permanent Truckee campus.
“This is the completion of what was originally planned,” said Gerald Angove, who is leading the campaign in support of Measure G. “It’s an investment in the future of our community.”
Angove, a Grass Valley resident, was the community college system’s president from 1975 to 1993. During his tenure, plans were first drawn for a Nevada County campus, which was established in 1996.
With as much as 25,000 square feet of classroom space expected to be built if Measure G passes, Angove and others said it will give students a chance to complete their two-year degrees and enhance their job skills locally.
It also gives the college a chance to enhance opportunities for returning students and seniors looking to enrich their lives, said Nevada County campus Provost Tina Ludutsky-Taylor.
“We need to offer what this community needs,” she said. “Our community is smaller, so we may never be able to offer what Rocklin has … but we may be able to offer things that are unique to this campus.”
When trustees first proposed the Nevada County campus, they made a pledge that no one within Nevada County would have to travel more than 30 miles to receive higher education classes, Angove said.
That means that if Measure G passes, a Grass Valley nursing student might not have to travel to Rocklin to get the certification needed.
“I’m very concerned that we create a skilled work force so they can get jobs here,” he said.
More space dedicated to technical classes will make that possible, said Dan Castles, an entrepreneur once again playing a major role in Sierra College’s bond efforts.
Castles is CEO of Telestream, a Nevada City company that designs and manufactures hardware and software for video exchanges over the Internet.
Supporters of Measure G are also touting the possibility of more nursing classes and the completion of a fire and police training facility.
The fire training facility includes a three-story building where firefighters from Nevada County will be able to practice rescue and fire-suppression techniques. Presently, the county’s firefighters have to travel to Sacramento to sharpen such skills, said Grass Valley Fire Chief Hank Weston.
Weston estimates the building will save his department $12,500 yearly in travel costs, while saving residents money on their fire insurance by having a locally staffed fire-training facility.
The facility complements Grass Valley’s Fire Station No. 2 next to the Nevada County campus, which was originally built as part of a training facility.
Weston estimates that the burn building and on-campus physical education classes can be used by the county’s 300 fire and emergency personnel.
“All we’ll have to do is bring in the instructors,” Weston said.
The physical education component has drawn fire from the Nevada County Republican Party, which wrote, in an argument against Measure G, that “an examination of course content and student profile indicates a large percentage of purely social classes (i.e., art, photography, dance, yoga, hiking, etc). The list of irrelevant courses goes on and on.”
The measure is supported, however, by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and a variety of other public agency boards.
Instructor John Michael Keating has taught art history, watercolor and figure drawing at Sierra College since 1988, when classes were held at Nevada Union High School. His classes, he said, always have waiting lists.
“The real fact of the matter is, you’re training these people for important jobs.”
Keating’s classes top out at 20, in part because he’s forced to share space with three-dimensional classes like ceramics.
“I don’t see any irrelevant courses,” he said. “Maybe from (the Republicans’) point of view, we should become car mechanics.”
Keating said the art department generates the most full-time equivalent students on the Nevada County campus, in part because of Nevada County’s reputation as an artists’ community.
“Why not fulfill that need?” he said.
Nevada County voters, Castles hopes, will look not to their wallets but to the future when they step to the ballot box.
“Voting no is easy,” he said. “But when I look at the students and the adults and the employers in this community, I think what we’re asking for is fair.”
What $44 million would pay for:
Next month, western Nevada County voters will head to the polls to vote on Measure G, a $44.4 million bond measure to add classrooms and buildings to Sierra College’s Nevada County campus, which opened in 1996.
Here’s what is proposed if the bond passes.
– 10,000 square feet of classrooms
– 5,500 square feet for a public training facility for police and fire
– 20,000 square feet for a proposed 350-seat performing arts theater
– 15,000 square feet for classroom renovations
– 34,000 square feet for physical education classes
– 10,000 square feet for expansion and renovation of student services center.
The measure requires a 55 percent majority to pass. Measure G will be voted on by residents of the Nevada Joint Union High School District.
Source: Sierra Joint Community College District
How it appears on the ballot
SIERRA COLLEGE NEVADA COUNTY CAMPUS (GRASS VALLEY)
To prepare Western Nevada County area students for jobs/four-year colleges, provide for lifelong learning, improve safety, and accommodate increasing enrollment by repairing, acquiring, constructing, equipping buildings, sites, classrooms, labs and libraries, shall School Facilities Improvement District Number 2 (Western Nevada County Campus Area) of Sierra Joint Community College District issue $44,400,000 in bonds, at legal rates, with no money for administrators’ salaries, and with citizen oversight and guaranteed annual audits?
Source: Western Nevada County sample ballot
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