The public got its first glimpse Tuesday night at the master plan that outlines roughly how the Santa Rosa Junior College could spend $410 million in bond funds approved by Sonoma County voters two years ago.
About 40 people gathered at a community forum held at the junior college to see how the district intends to spend the Measure H bond dollars to chip away at a capital projects and deferred maintenance backlog estimated at about $1 billion between the Santa Rosa and Petaluma campuses and other college facilities.
The 236-page plan envisions a massive overhaul that will feature everything from revamped student centers and new administrative and instruction buildings to improved walkways and systems to boost environmental sustainability.
The funding available for the envisioned long-term upgrades recently earned a slight boost from the state, with the passage of Proposition 51, which will add tens of millions of dollars to the college’s planning budget, said Leigh Sata, SRJC’s director of capital projects.
“That’s terrific because now we can leverage local bond money with state money to stretch the dollars even further,” he said.
Four projects had already been approved by the board of trustees at its November meeting at a cost of $77.4 million. Dubbed “early start” projects, they include the $28 million modernization of Burbank Auditorium on the Santa Rosa campus, $32.5 million in districtwide energy and sustainability projects, a science addition and student services consolidation on the Petaluma campus for $15.7 million and a $1.2 million public safety training center multipurpose lab in Windsor. Bids are due out for the first projects next year.
Sata said that even prior to its passage, the district had already applied to the state for Proposition 51 dollars. Each project application received by the state was given a certain score, Sata said, and projects where districts could put up matching dollars received higher scores. Because of Measure H funding, SRJC was already able to get $34 million from the state for a chemistry, math and engineering building, he said.
The district asked the state to help fund two additional projects, as well: a lab building at the public safety training center in Windsor and a general classroom building on the Santa Rosa campus.
Because the district doesn’t yet know what it will get from the state, it hasn’t submitted an overall bond spending plan to the board of trustees, Sata said, so no complete priority list yet exists. He said he expects one will be submitted to the board for approval at its January meeting, providing the public additional opportunity for input on the spending of bond funds.
Santa Rosa Junior College President Frank Chong, who was on hand Tuesday night, said his top priority is “what’s best for the faculty and the students.”
“I think repairing the aging facilities — some of the classrooms are so worn, to see them get internet access with high-speed internet,” he said. “Practical things that students need right now: furniture and lighting.”
School construction contracts provide significant work for local designers, engineers and builders, and at least one representative for the industry was in the audience Tuesday night.
John Bly, executive vice president of the Northern California Engineering Contractors Association — and an SRJC alumnus — said the slate of new building projects was exciting and long overdue.
“I’ve been tracking all of these new buildings; it’s fantastic,” he said. “And I was sharing with some people how old the science and engineering building is — it’s the same building, and it was old then! It needs to be replaced and luckily it will be. ... I hope the dollars stretch nicely.”