By Brianna McClaflin / Asst. News Editor
Some Board of Trustees members are questioning the legality of Riverside Community College District’s use of Measure C funds to construct a massive district office downtown, due to the district office being an administrative expense.
According to Measure C’s ballot, Measure C bonds are allowed to “add and upgrade…technology, academic classrooms/laboratories; repair, acquire, construct, equip buildings, sites, (and) classrooms.”
Two board members expressed concern over the legality of the building of the district office, as well as concerns over the construction company awarded the project.
Board members and faculty feel that in a time of proposed cuts and threats of decreased instruction, the District should look into some of its questionable and wasteful expenses.
“I do not believe the building of the new district offices is either urgent or critical,” said instructor Rhonda Taube. “While I cannot speak to the legality of such an endeavor, I can question whether this is a suitable expense at this time, given our budget issues and potential fiscal woes.”
Measure C is a $350 million construction bond that was approved by the community in 2006.
Chancellor Gregory Gray anticipates that the $350 million in bond money will create $720 million worth of buildings, by leveraging the money Riverside City College has to other available funding.
On Market and University Avenue, the college recently renovated an old bank building into a Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties. The building was funded by economic development money, and none of the Measure C bond money.
The new district offices will be located on the second and third floors of the new Culinary Arts facility, which will be located next to the Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties.
The district office is considered a necessary expense at this time because the current district office, worth around $4 million, will be either sold or rented out. The current Culinary Arts building is currently being rented out for $10,000 a month.
In question of the legality of the office, Chancellor Gray said that after the legality was questioned by the board, it was looked into multiple ways and was proven legal.
“I could look you in the eye and tell you it is totally legal, and I believe it makes sense fiscally in the longer term, because they tell me this building had a $4 million value on it,” Chancellor Gray said, at the current district office.
Chancellor Gray explained that the building of the offices at this time makes sense fiscally, because due to the economic crisis, contractors are desperate for work and the bids are coming below initial estimates.
“We have money to build,” Gray said. “We have zero in terms of operational money.”
The Chancellor understands that building at this time looks questionable, but he believes that once people understand, they will realize that the college knows what they are doing.
“Some people think it looks foolish to build now in the middle of an economic crisis. Interestingly enough, it’s the smartest time to do it,” Gray said.
Tilden-Coil is the construction company assigned to construct the district office building. Henry W. Coil was the previous owner of the company, and is also a very active and prominent member of the community. He gave a gift of $5 million to RCC, in honor of his parents, Henry W. and Alice Edna Coil, for the construction of a school for the arts.
“(The donation) is an extremely generous gift to the college and it bothers me that every individual who works in this college does not go over there and thank him,” Gray said.
Some members of the board are questioning Coil’s relationship with the construction company, and the donation, insisting it is a conflict of interest.
“This innuendo; that is absolutely false, wrong, and I would suggest illegal, because it is a slander of his character and it is absolutely not based upon fact,” Gray said.
Gray insists that he has no problem with compromising or saying he is wrong.
“Measure C it is not short and simple,” Gray said. “It is important in that we understand the entire (story), because in my opinion if you understand the totality of all of what I just said to you, the administrative building makes perfect sense. It is actually going to result in a descent amount of money.”