By Janene Scully
Noozhawk North County Editor
During a special meeting on June 15, the Allan Hancock College Board of Trustees agreed to put a $75 million bond measure on the November ballot, asking voters to approve funding for a fine-arts complex and other projects.
The 4-1 vote came three days after the board failed to reach the needed majority for the bond proposal to move forward, with a 3-1 vote on June 12.
The difference was the return of board member Larry Lahr, who had been ill the previous night. Board member Dan Hilker opposed the proposal during both meetings.
“Now the real work begins,” Board President Hilda Zacarias said after the final vote.
Hancock will ask voters to pass a $75 million bond measure, which would need 55-percent approval. Since Hancock will cancel $34 million in unspent funds from Measure I, which was approved in 2006, the 2018 bond would amount to $41 million in new money.
College leaders say the new bond is needed to complete the fine-arts complex and other projects, including those related to athletics and technology programs.
Hilker said his opposition centered on a belief that the bond was about the fine-arts building, adding that no speakers mentioned that project during the second meeting on June 15.
However, several speakers did talk about the fine-arts building during the June 12 meeting.
Hilker also called it “a fairy tale” that Measure I projects were done well, noting problems with the Public Safety Training Center and saying the college was not a good steward.
“The request for the money is for a lump sum to be thrown at all of these other projects that are not specific to getting the fine-arts building,” he said.
“I’d like to do the other things, but this is a bridge too far,” he said. “We need to have oversight on this and we have to have a plan.”
Lahr agreed the fine-arts building is the top priority, calling it a “no-brainer.”
“This will allow us to build the last piece of the puzzle,” he said, adding that any projects using bond funding will go to the board for approval.
Government agencies are required to appoint a citizens oversight committee to monitor bond measure spending, said board member Gregory Pensa, who represents the Santa Ynez Valley.
He also noted that the state has promised $24 million to help Hancock build the fine-arts complex.
“If we don’t pass this bond, we’re not going to be able to build this building and we’re going to kiss off $24 million,” Pensa said.
The school also received a $10 million gift from the estate of Patty Boyd, an arts patron and former faculty member, for a recital hall.
“To me, to not move forward on this would not be serving our constituents,” Pensa added.
Speakers on June 15 described decrepit conditions at the college’s athletic buildings, with one person comparing them to something out of a horror movie, while others talked about cold showers, broken shower heads and lots of rust.
“This is not an issue of us not maintaining the buildings,” Superintendent and President Kevin Walthers said. “This is an issue of buildings that are 55 years old. They’ve lost their useful life.”
Head trainer Cheo Munoz told the board about an incident where an athlete had suffered a serious back injury and the gurney would not fit into the training area where she was.
The gurney had to remain in the hallway, he said.
“This young athlete was made to walk on her own power and sit on her own on this gurney from the training room with a broken back,” Munoz said, adding that fortunately the woman recovered from her injury.
Another speaker, football player Colton Adam, noted that the inadequate facilities make it difficult for the coaching staff to recruit players.
“We might have a good program, but our facilities, they kind of turn athletes away that aren’t from here, and don’t have to come here because it’s close to home,” he said.
“A kid could go to another school down the road at Santa Barbara and go, ‘Wow, this facility is amazing.’ They’ve got a full locker room. All their facilities are beautiful and up to date,” he added.