California state legislators have decided to hold back on funding PCC’s promised Proposition 51 bond, further delaying the replacement of the U-Building and stagnating the future of the natural sciences division.
According to the Executive Director of Strategic Communications and Marketing, Alex Boekelheide, PCC was given a one week deadline from the California Department of Finance to fund eight to ten million dollars for the U-building. This is in contrast to previous conversations where it was established that PCC would have to locally fund only $2 million.
This recent financial development comes six months ahead of PCC’s original plan to begin reconstruction on the U-Building.
In fact, PCC was given priority for funding in 2016 since the U-Building was red tagged in 2012. The original plan stipulated that PCC would receive $57.5 million from Proposition 51, the California Public School Facility bonds, but would also have to find the rest of the money locally.
Furthermore, the only way PCC could get funding from Proposition 51 was if they planned to build a “like for like building”. This means that the U-building has to be replaced as-is, with no added amenities or expansions.
According to the natural sciences division, however, the reconstruction of the U-Building as-is won’t be able to house all of the natural & life science classes. Since the emergency evacuation of the old building in 2011, the STEM program has grown by 40 percent at PCC.
During a board of trustees meeting last year in September, chemistry professor Debra Wood-Martinson addressed the board with concerns about who’s going to get the “short straws” after being in ‘temporary housing’ for six years.
“[The natural sciences faculty] is in total agreement that the building is insufficient to accommodate the current size of our science program, let alone the future growth,” said Wood-Martinson. “What will be the reasonable plan in place so that those of us who are still in the Science Village will know that there is some end in sight?”
The science village was created after the U-building was found to have seismic problems. It was initially supposed to be a temporary stay, but issues from faculty are slowly arising because of the growth and length of time they’ve been in these trailers. It’s been six years since the evacuation, and with possible wear-and-tear, cosmetic issues due to weather conditions, and time – the trailers will eventually break down.
“It is a problem because these are temporary trailers … they were not designed to hold up under the kind of wear-and-tear or under the lab conditions,” said Wood-Martinson. “The hoods, the flooring, the tile, the chairs – were not designed to be 20-30 year structures. What sort of message are we saying to prospective students as well as prospective faculty that we’re trying to attract here?”
While the current plan doesn’t include reconstructing the U-Building to fit the entire natural sciences department, PCC is working on funding money locally to further expand and add amenities to the U-Building.
In the meantime – a current topic of discussion is putting a bond on the 2020 ballot; that’s if the U-Building isn’t put on the May revision for this year’s budget. For now, the programs will remain in the science village, despite the 40 percent increase.
“The next six weeks are critical. At the moment, we don’t know where it’s going to go,” said Boekelheide. “It’s in the hands of the legislature.”