New college campus on schedule | SierraSun.com

New college campus on schedule

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun

Andrew Cristancho/ Sierra SunDoug Smith, member of the Measure H Citizen's Bond Oversight Committee and Project Manager Rob Koster talk about the new Sierra College campus. The committee took a tour of the building during their quarterly meeting on April 21.

The new Sierra College campus on top of McIver Hill in Truckee is beginning to look like a center of higher learning.

Members of a citizen’s review committee, charged with the financial oversight of the construction of the new campus, toured the site on April 21 with college district officials, and the reaction was positive from all that attended.

Admiring the natural light flowing in through the skylights in the high ceilings, Committee Chair Bob Hartsfield said he was impressed with the building.

“The detail will create the ambiance that will inspire creativity,” he said while touring the second floor of the building which contains a dramatic loft area for students to gather.

“One of the things many community colleges lack is a space for bringing students together as a body,” he added.

Sierra College’s Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee gave its fiscal stamp of approval to the project in a report to the district’s board of trustees on April 8, Hartsfield said. The report certified that the bond revenues spent on construction in the 2006-07 fiscal year met with the requirements of the original bond agreement and the California constitution, according to committee documents.

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Area voters authorized $35 million in general obligation bonds when they passed Measure H in the November 2004 election, according to the report. Because the election was conducted under Proposition 39 it required the establishment of an oversight committee, appointed by the trustees, that represented various constituents within the community, according to the report.

Expenditures were in line with the budget, said Project Manager Rob Koster.

As of March 31 the total expenditures on the project were $24.4 million and the budget’s upper limit was $39.1 million, according to accounting documents that were reviewed at Monday’s meeting.

The $4 million difference between the original bond amount and the budget’s upper limit comes mainly from interest paid on the bond funds and revenues paid by the Truckee Donner Land Trust for a conservation easement on the 73-acre plot, according to consultant Bonnie Bensen.

As the construction season starts and excavation is allowed to begin on May 1, Tahoe-Truckee residents will see the groundwork begin on State Highway 89, Koster said. Excavation and underground utility work will be necessary to tie water and natural gas service to the campus. Additional projects that will affect the highway will include the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Donner Creek, a sidewalk parallel to the creek, a dedicated left turn lane from southbound 89 and a bus turnout near the entry of the campus, Koster said.

The highway phase, which required Caltrans to issue a permit and could cost up to $2.4 million, is the “big unknown” of the project, Koster said.

“We cannot open until the roadwork is done,” he said.

Site work is set for completion in October, and the building should be finished in December, according to the committee report.

Some are more optimistic.

Sierra College’s Laura Doty, the director of facilities and construction predicted the project to be “finishing early and under budget.”

Classes are scheduled to begin at the new campus in January 2009.