Committee members were unable to reach a compromise on proposed facilities and schedule a closed meeting.
By Zachary-Taylor Wright
Members of the Capital Improvement Project Citizen Committee debated the allocation of $450 million for infrastructure development in the district Nov. 22 without deciding on any recommendations.
The committee is charged with making recommendations on proposed projects presented to the board of trustees in a June 29 retreat as the district prepares to call for a bond election in May.
The board of trustees appointed the committee members to represent the public during the planning process.
The board will consider the committee’s recommendations before calling for a public vote in May to approve the issuance of bonds.
They scheduled a second meeting to continue the discussion Nov. 28, which was closed to the public at the last minute — District 2 trustee Joe Alderete said the board of trustees was invited to listen to the meeting, but doors were closed to them after they arrived.
John W. Strybos, associate vice chancellor of facilities operation and construction management for the district, said the meeting was closed at the request of the committee.
Strybos said the meetings do not follow board meeting bylaws because they are not a legal entity but an appointed committee.
In the Nov. 22 meeting, District 3 representative Luis R. Vera Jr. expressed concern with the committee’s parking garage construction plans, nursing program expansion and focus on constructing regional centers.
Strybos said $21 million is allocated to constructing a parking garage and child care center over Lot 21.
College President Robert Vela said the new parking garage will accommodate the current student body and the campus’s expected growth.
Vela said the cost of restoring the early childhood center is unreasonable and building a new one below the parking garage is more cost-efficient.
Vera expressed concern with the continued addition of parking garages, and he questioned if the new garage will alleviate parking problems or provide all the capacity the college needs.
Vela said the new garage will have 1,000 parking spaces and will provide adequate parking for the college.
He said students are unwilling to walk from less desirable parking spaces across campus.
Vela said this college has the capacity to educate more than 1,000 registered nursing students in the nursing complex but only enrolls 300 currently. He said this college plans to meet capacity over the next few years.
The college’s registered nursing program is under capacity because of low faculty numbers.
Vera expressed concern with the “massive waiting list” students face when applying to the college’s nursing program.
Selice Perez, nursing education department administrative assistant, said there is no waiting list for the registered nursing program.
Vera said students are turning to for-profit colleges as they are unable to defer income long enough make it into this college’s program.
Vela explained that for-profit colleges, like Career Point, lack state accreditation, leaving students with a certificate that does not transfer to a four-year-college.
Vela refuted Vera’s concerns that this college is not using the nursing complex adequately by declaring this college’s dedication to hiring the best faculty and producing the most competitive students.
“We will scale back up,” Vela said. “We could open the doors to a thousand nursing students next semester, but at the end of the day, those are our nursing students in the community.”
Vela said low nursing faculty numbers are a result of continuous faculty retirement and a highly selective hiring process.
Strybos said $23 million is allocated to constructing a new regional center on Interstate Highway 10 West similar to the Westside Education and Training Center.
Vera said he would prefer to see more funds go toward enhancing inner-city schools before building new facilities, referencing a 2005 attempt to build a facility in the medical center. The facility would have joined programs from St. Philip’s and this college. Public outcry forced the board to reconsider leaving the programs at their home colleges.
District 6 representative Dwight Hale rebutted Vera’s claim, stating that representatives should act for the district as a whole rather than showing favor to colleges.
District 1 representative Elisa Bernal said she is concerned with the large amount allocated to the construction of the I-10 West facility.
District 8 representative Daniel Lasater agreed with Vera, saying renovating the Westside Education and Training Center should take precedence over new facility construction.
Lasater said the low-income demographic that attends the westside facility is underserved. The facility has no provision for online growth, a building that needs handicap accessibility and foundation work and several areas in need of renovation.
Lasater suggested the committee remove funds from the I-10 West facility and the administration building to supplement the cost of renovating the westside facility.
Dr. Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor of planning, performance and information systems, asked the committee for $25 million to upgrade administrative systems, develop digital signage and expand wireless connection.
Strybos said the bonds will be sold in thirds of $150 million each, beginning in 2017 and concluding in 2021.
The meeting culminated with Gloria Ray, District 2 representative and citizens advisory and committee chair, calling for a followup meeting, where all representatives can present their “burning issues” before attempting to compromise.