Today Second Thoughts received a response from Delta College Board of Trustees President Steve Castellanos regarding a recent blog entry of mine that described the decision to put permanent work on hold at the college's Mountain House campus.
Specifically, Castellanos took exception to my calling the decision a "broken promise."
The campus there is not being abandoned, according to Castellanos. Far from it. It's just that the state's fiscal crisis is forcing a re-prioritization of spending. And right now — though classes in portable classrooms will start at Mountain House this fall as scheduled — that means waiting on the permanent phase of the south-county project.
Also, he wished to correct a passage in which I stated "that Measure L bond money will be directed away from the south-county campus, to be used for other projects."
"There has been no board discussion or decision on redirecting any money other than to hold funds in reserve for projects in construction or (that are) ready to go into construction where state bond money was a component of the cash requirement. An example is the campus library in Stockton, currently under construction. ... So far, we have not had to close down any project, as other school districts have had to do."
Those Stockton projects were originally bankrolled with Measure L bond money, just like the Mountain House campus. But those closer-to-completion projects were supposed to be backed with state matching funds that are frozen right now, according to Delta public information officer Greg Greenwood. So the project at Mountain House will be put on hold so that the Measure L money is available to complete the Stockton projects if (it's a big "if") the state doesn't follow through with its share.
Plus, the projects at the Stockton campus have always been the priority. Which makes sense, as that campus serves the majority of Delta's student body.
The upshot, though, is mostly the same — Permanent construction at Mountain House is on pause.
To be fair, completing a permanent campus at Mountain House was going to be years down the road, anyway. And frankly, while that project is vitally important to Mountain House, permanent construction there is not as important to the overall county community as upgrades to the main, already-established campus.
Castellanos said he and the other trustees won't forget about the committment to Mountain House and insist on finding solutions for the project:
"We (the trustees) asked the administration to continue to explore more options to achieve goals in Mountain House, which they are doing. We established a joint committee between the board and the Mountain House Community Services District as well to make sure that communication is clear and joint goals could be met."
Still, there's no denying that many in Mountian House probably perceive the situation as one in which they get the short end of the stick. And it's easy to empathize. No one wants to see the centerpiece of their community put on hold. It's a fair point.
But, as Castellanos says, considering that Delta has already spent several years and $22.6 million on the campus:
"To be told by the public that the continuous investment Delta has made is not sufficient is troublesome when one can clearly see that the developer himself, as well as the marketplace for new homes, etc., have all experienced serious setbacks."
In other words: Delta has invested millions of dollars and lots of time to bring higher education to Mountain House — whaddya mean we're not concerned about south county students?
Also a fair point.
These are indeed, as Catellanos says, "very difficult and unprecedented times." And in such times, everyone gets the short end of the stick. Cutbacks will be made — at school districts, cities, everywhere.
The people who make the tough decisions — the ones who seem to put the larger community priorities first, at least — should be given some understanding. (It's the ones making no decisions at all we should be pissed at.)
It's also worth noting that while a fully landscaped campus would be a community boon, so is the education that will be offered beginning this fall at the south-county campus. "Portables" doesn't have to equal "crappy education," and Greenwood insists that the quality of instruction in Mountain House will equal that at the main Stockton campus.
That, ultimately, is what's most important — expanding the educational resources available in the south county.
There's still plenty of time for Delta to keep its promise to Mountain House. So even if we're upset in the south county, maybe a little patience is in order.