Measure J passes, secures BC renovations

Morgan Park, Reporter

Last week’s election saw the passing of several new bond measures in Kern County, the largest of which was Measure J, a nearly $503 million bond that will enable new construction and renovations throughout the Kern Community College District.

The schools of the KCCD include Bakersfield College, BC’s Delano campus, Porterville College and Cerro Coso College, all of which have prepared their list of proposed projects that Measure J will ideally satisfy over the next several decades. Two of the proposed projects through BC would construct satellite campuses in both Shafter and Arvin, which would expand the KCCD.

BC president Sonya Christian is happy and relieved with the measure’s passing.

“There is so much work to be done, and now we can get started to repair and renovate this aging campus. In some buildings, in addition to renovating existing spaces, we will expand classroom and laboratory spaces.”

Student government president Matt Frazer shared in Christian’s sentiments. “I am extremely relieved and excited that it happened. It’s a huge win not only for present Renegades but future Renegades,” he said.

Frazer believes the measure will bring BC into the 21st century.

“You go to class, you see [the buildings], it’s not up to where it needs to be for the education we need.”

Frazer points to agriculture as a field of study at BC that will be greatly improved through Measure J, especially with regards to hiring power.

“Employers will know that we are educated with the right technology for [agriculture]. There’s so much changing in the agriculture industry for technology that we are behind on. And now with this bond and getting what we need, it’s going to supersede the technology requirements we need,” he said.

Between the BC administration, the KCCD and SGA, nobody knows for sure which Measure J projects will begin construction first. Though, given the choice, Christian and Frazer would want the new Veteran’s Center to get under way.

“Actually the next construction we are going to see will be the Campus Center. After that, I would like to see our Veterans Resource Center be the first project completed with Measure J. This is a critical need for the college,” said Christian.

Frazer emphasized that veterans have “done so much for our country and for our city alone, that they deserve to have that first. The veterans need it, they deserve it. It’ll help hundreds of thousands of veterans, not just ones here at BC, but all over.”

KCCD chief financial officer Tom Burke is excited about Measure J’s passing but said meetings need to happen with the administration before construction begins.

“We have to get with the college presidents and review their long-term facilities plans and do some initial planning with them to determine which top priorities should be pursued first. The passage of Proposition 51 will also influence this planning. In addition, we also have to finish the Measure G construction program, which still has several projects to be completed,” Burke said.

Proposition 51, which passed with 53 percent of the vote statewide, will dedicate $9 billion to new construction and renovations throughout the K-12 and community colleges of California.

The district plans to apply and try to secure additional funding for its colleges through state funds from Proposition 51.

“We have to compete for those [Proposition 51] dollars within the community college system,” said Burke back in September.

Measure G, the $180 million precursors to Measure J, passed in 2002 and is still in progress after 14 years.

Back in September, Burke said that there is still approximately $53 million still wrapped up in Measure G.

One of these projects is the new Maintenance and Operations Building at BC that is currently under construction.

Measure J was voted in at 62.42 percent of the vote, a margin in line with most of the bonds that passed.

Burke wasn’t surprised by the final tally.

“All of our polling indicated that the majority of voters in our various communities supported Measure J. But until the voters actually vote, you never know,” he said.

Frazer expected the measure to pass but was surprised by the amount of people that voted yes.

“I thought it was going to be more like a 57 or 58 percent area and I was shocked that it was 62 percent. I’m happy that people got behind it, even though we were late campaigning on it and late on getting it out for students to notice. I’m really surprised and happy that it was 62 percent because that means the people of Bakersfield really do care about BC, and this showed that,” he said.

Speaking on all of the bond measures that passed, Burke thinks the community recognized the need for renovations and reconstructions.

“I think the people in Kern, Tulare and San Bernardino counties understood our needs as well as the needs of other schools and believe that an investment in our colleges, high schools and grammar schools is a solid investment to make for the future of their communities. Plus, many of the facilities associated with those bonds were extremely old and well past their normal life. That was very clear from the information all of the schools had provided to the public, justifying the need for these bonds.”

Christian sees Measure J’s passing as a commitment to education from Kern County.

“At the end of the day, this community values education. They see education as key to social and economic prosperity for individuals in our community and for our community as a whole. It is heartening to see this steadfast commitment. We are BC. And we are Bakersfield,” she said.