COS authorizes funding for Tulare Center Phase II

Ben Irwin

Board of Trustees authorizes $22.8 million in bonds, $5.5 million in funds for the Tulare Center Phase II project to bring ag and industry vocational programs under one roof

VISALIA – College of the Sequoias has begun Phase II of its roughly $32 million effort of reeling in its vocational program satellites to the Tulare Center location. The board of trustees approved a $5.5 million allocation of funds and the sale of $22.8 million in general obligation bonds toward the project.

The Tulare Center Phase II project is split into two steps: Phase II A will involve building offices, classrooms and labs for industrial maintenance, industrial automation, electrician training, environmental control technology and construction technology. Phase II B will do the same for the automotive technology and agriculture mechanics programs. All of the above vocational programs are currently at annex locations or the Visalia campus.

Dr. Louann Waldner, provost at COS’ Tulare Campus, said in addition to serving the south part of their district, housing ag and industry programs under one roof brings upsides.

“We think it is an advantage for students, employers and industry partners to be all in kind of a one-stop shop,” Waldner said. “It will be an opportunity for that group of faculty to be together and benefit from the synergy of working together and allowing students to utilize facilities and faculty in cross disciplinary ways that we couldn’t when we weren’t all together.”

While having the luxury for students to be able to walk across the maintenance yard to get to the welding shop is a plus, COS superintendent and president Dr. Brent Calvin said the breadth of the Tulare Center doesn’t end at ag and industry.

“Doing some cross pollination like that with students, that will really be cool,” Calvin said, “but that doesn’t discount the fact that if you want to be a teacher, you can just as easily come and get your general ed done and transfer to Fresno State by coming to Tulare as you could coming to Visalia.”

Phase I and Phase III—both completed in 2013—built out the initial infrastructure of the campus, as well as the instructional facilities for the agriculture division, including units for livestock and ornamental horticulture and plant science. Calvin said they’ve been waiting for eight years to secure more matching funds from the state for Phase II, but the state has made it clear that the project would not score high enough on the Chancellor’s Office Fusion system for another eight years to be eligible for statewide bond issuance.

“We just didn’t feel like we could wait,” Calvin said.

The COS Board of Trustees authorized the sale of $22.8 million dollars in bonds left from Measure J—passed by Kern and Tulare County voters in 2008 authorizing $60 million in general obligation bonds to build a college center in Tulare—at their April 12 meeting, in addition to approving $5.5 million, just about all of their budget surplus, to the project. These bold financial moves at a time of conservative spending for many public agencies due to the global pandemic were possible in part from COS’ above-average reserves, which sit at about 30% of their $67.6 million fiscal year 2021 budget.

With the authorized bonds and $5.5 million in funds, that leaves COS about four to five million short of completing the project, something Calvin isn’t overly concerned about.

“We’re not going to need it for a couple of years, because it’s going to be a year of design, approvals and bidding,” Calvin said. “We probably have two years to identify and transfer over the remaining $4-4.5 million, but if we needed to do it tomorrow, we have the ability to do it right now.”

The current estimated timetable is to break ground by fall 2022, complete construction by June 2024 and open for students for the fall 2024 semester.

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