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Ventura County

Backers of College Bond Measure Start Recruiting Support

Vote: The $365-million initiative on the March ballot would pay for projects such as new classrooms and a training academy for firefighters and officers.

January 18, 2002|LISA LEFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

New classrooms, computer labs and a training academy for firefighters and law enforcement officers are among the projects that would be funded by a $365-million ballot initiative sponsored by the Ventura County Community College District.

With less than two months to the election, college administrators, students and other bond supporters are aggressively campaigning for Measure S. The initiative, which would finance a host of construction and repair projects at the district's three campuses, will appear on the March 5 ballot.

"One of the commitments we have made publicly is, if this bond passes, it will fix the needs of this district's facilities for the next 50 years," Chancellor Phillip Westin said. "This is a one-time deal."

Westin and Deputy Chancellor Michael Gregoryk have been making presentations to civic groups, seeking out endorsements from elected officials and raising the estimated $250,000 needed to fund the campaign.

"It's a huge project because the time frame is short and we have a lot of work to do," Westin said.

Meanwhile, students have launched a voter registration drive on the three college campuses, and a "Yes on S" Web site has been set up.

Positive reaction from a public opinion poll and a desire to avoid competing with other state bond measures in the November general election convinced college officials that it was better to take their chances on the March ballot, said Pat Kistler, a district spokeswoman.

If the measure is approved by voters, property owners will see their yearly tax bills rise $18.97 for every $100,000 of assessed value, an increase of $66 for the owners of a $350,000 home.

No groups or individuals submitted written arguments opposing Measure S in time to appear on the sample ballots that will be mailed to registered voters, Westin said.

Supporters include a cross-section of nonpartisan officeholders, including Supervisor Kathy Long, Sheriff Bob Brooks, Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez, Ventura Mayor Ray Di Guilio and state Sen. Jack O'Connell (D-San Luis Obispo). Richard Rush, president of Cal State University Channel Islands, added his name to the list of supporters this week.

The bond campaign has secured pledges totaling $102,000, or about 40% of the amount backers say is needed for signs, mailings and television, radio and newspaper ads.

Much of the campaign funding is expected to come from vendors who do business with the colleges and the county's construction industry, including architects, engineers and contractors who would have a vested interest in the measure's success, according to Gregoryk.

Most of the $356 million raised through bond sales would be divided among Ventura, Moorpark and Oxnard colleges during the next decade and would be used for projects designated by college trustees.

These would include adding classrooms, lecture halls, computer labs, day-care centers and science facilities to keep up with rising enrollments; replacing outmoded wiring, plumbing and electrical systems; and renovating gymnasiums, libraries, athletic fields and auditoriums.

The single largest project would involve building and equipping a new regional training academy for county firefighters, sheriff's deputies and police officers at an estimated cost of $24 million. The facility would be constructed at Las Posas and Pleasant Valley roads in Camarillo behind a fire station.

While it is not unusual for a local bond measure to receive the 55% of the vote needed to pass, "it's not a slam dunk," said Catherine Lew, the community college district's campaign consultant.

The campaign team will use mailings and a volunteer phone bank to target the 50,000 voters who submitted absentee ballots during the last March election.

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