May GO Bond to Fund Safety, Security and Deferred Maintenance Projects
This May, Mt. Hood Community College will ask voters in its district to approve a $75 million general obligation bond. MHCC has not passed a GO bond since 1974, and these funds will allow the college to better prepare for future academic demands and potential
challenges and to repair its aging infrastructure.
Included in the bond is $35 million for a new Workforce and Applied Technology Center, which will house MHCC's recently approved Mechatronics program (mhcc.edu/ Mechatronics) and other applied technology programs. The money will also support $8.4
million in safety and security upgrades, allowing the Gresham Campus and Bruning and Maywood centers to implement 21st century security technologies that these campuses and buildings desperately need.
Approximately $6.7 million from the bond will fund seismic retrofits, allowing MHCC to upgrade the Yoshida Event Center so that it can better withstand a major earthquake and best serve the community should such a disaster occur. This is especially
important as the facility also serves as one of Gresham's emergency Red Cross shelters. The college also plans to upgrade its library – the heart of MHCC and a major student hub – to be better prepared if an earthquake hits Portland metro and
other communities up and down the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
Finally, $23 million will pay off existing debt and free up annual operating funds, potentially to pay for almost $24 million in deferred maintenance throughout the MHCC system.
If the bond passes, the estimated tax rate per $100,000 of assessed value would be $23, meaning the cost to a typical homeowner with an assessed home value of $200,000 would be $46 per year. Additionally, MHCC will receive $8 million in matching state
funds that the college otherwise loses.
The Gresham Campus was constructed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Since then, few changes or upgrades have been made to the main campus structures.
"The library and gymnasium were built to 1970s construction standards and grandfathered in under those rules," explained Charles George, director of facilities management at MHCC. "They really need structural improvement to make them capable of withstanding
larger seismic events."
The library and support offices (known as Building 13) was selected for upgrades because of its high usage, especially during the week. The Event Center was chosen because of its status as a Red Cross shelter – a designation given after the structure
was built to lesser earthquake-resistance standards. Under existing seismic structural standards, the Event Center is considered an "inspection before occupancy" building, versus an "immediate occupancy'' building. According to George, the college
wants to upgrade it to an "immediate occupancy," thus ensuring it will better survive a natural disaster and MHCC can immediately begin using it to serve the school and community. However, bringing it up to higher earthquake-resistance standards
would require reinforcing the roof, improving several walls, and securing building equipment.
Safety and Security
In the fall of 2015, weeks after an attacker shot and killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown demanded that the state examine campus safety and security across its higher education campuses. She formed the
Oregon Campus Safety Work Group, a task force made up of Oregon law enforcement officials and of staff and faculty from across the state's two- and four-year schools.
Last fall, the Work Group presented its recommendations to Gov. Brown, and asked for $15 million in state funding to support the recommendations. On the infrastructure side, the task force's recommendations include requiring all post-secondary education
institutions in Oregon to "have campus security standards that take into account the campus's size, complexity, and hours of operation...These standards should be integrated into campus planning efforts, capital projects, and major remodels."
But with the state facing a $1.6 billion shortfall, it's unlikely the $15 million will materialize.
Of the $8.4 million sought for safety and security upgrades across MHCC campuses and facilities, a portion would fund an electronic card access system tied to the Gresham Campus's alarm and security network. Presently, of the more than 420-plus doors
at the Gresham Campus, roughly 10-12 have card readers, said George. The remainder require a key – a key that's easily lost or stolen.
“If the bond passes, the estimated tax rate per $100,000 of assessed value would be $23, meaning the cost to a typical homeowner with an assessed home value of $200,000 would be $46 per year. Additionally, MHCC will receive $8 million in matching state
funds that the college otherwise loses.”
With an electronic card system, MHCC students, faculty and staff would receive swipe cards which would restrict and allow access to specific areas of campus. MHCC could at any time delete the access ability of specific cards. With bond funding, the
college could also tie an alarm and camera system to the electronic door system, allowing Public Safety to identify people (using security cameras) who attempted to use deleted swipe cards to access doors. And Public Safety could easily lockdown
the electronic doors with the touch of a button should an attack take place on campus.
According to Wayne Feagle, MHCC's manager of public safety, property crime is the most frequently reported type of crime at the Gresham Campus. Property crime is often costly. For example, last October, four people caused over $50,000 in property
damage overnight at the Gresham Campus when they smashed vehicle windshields, knocked over vending machines, busted fountains and destroyed other items. \
"Our campus is relatively safe," said Feagle. "Generally, people are safe on campus, and the majority of people we talk with feel safe here. However, we could do better and we need to be better prepared."
One way that the college could do better is by upgrading its existing security equipment. Campus security cameras are nearing the end of their life spans, said Feagle, and the Emergency Announcement System can be difficult to hear in the athletic
fields, far parking lots and some exterior common areas. The bond would fund new security cameras and exterior emergency communication speakers. MHCC could also expand outdoor lighting throughout campus; add a fire alarm notification system to
some buildings; and improve the security systems at the Maywood and Bruning centers.
Maintenance and Upkeep
The debt restructuring portion of the bond would free up approximately $2.5 million in annual debt service costs, allowing the school to invest these annual fees into more than $23 million in deferred maintenance projects across the 45-year-old Gresham
Campus and aging Maywood Center, said Charles George. Maywood was purchased by MHCC in 1973 and remodeled periodically since then, including partial re models in 2012, 2010 and 2000.
Each year, George works with a budget of approximately $400,000 to pay for repairs, maintenance and upgrades to MHCC's Gresham Campus and the Maywood and Bruning centers. And each year, he must carefully prioritize imperative action items while slowly
whittling away at a growing list of deferred maintenance projects.
This fiscal year, George will spend $160,000 to repair the Gresham Campus's most heavily used ADA-compliant elevator (one of two on the campus) and $50,000 to improve the pool systems at the Aquatic Center. He'll apply temporary fixes elsewhere: repairing
the roof on the Solar Observatory, replacing fire panels, filling in potholes, adding some signage, repainting the library bathrooms, improving a leaking exterior wall at the mortuary and controlling weeds. However, his budget can only stretch so
far, and that still leaves millions of dollars in deferred maintenance costs.
$75 Million GO Bond Breakdown
|$35 million ||105,000-square-foot Workforce and Applied Technology Center on the Gresham Campus*|
|$8.4 million||Safety and security upgrades at Gresham Campus and Bruning and Maywood centers|
|$6.7 million||Seismic retrofitting of the Yoshida Event Center and Library|
|$23 million ||Debt service restructuring**|
*Would also be funded by an additional $8 million in state matching funds that MHCC otherwise loses.
** Frees up $2.5 million in annual debt service costs to help fund approximately $24 million in campus-wide deferred maintenance projects.
These deferred projects run the gamut from adding fire suppression equipment – like sprinklers – in areas without them to replacing door hardware and waterproofing exterior walls. Some of the larger projects include replacing and repairing roofing, replacing
and/or maintaining existing elevators and replacing the concrete footings at the Maywood Center.
"There's nothing that's an immediate threat, but stuff that needs to happen over time," said George. "Otherwise we get water in the buildings and things deteriorate in ways that we don't want them to."
George has pursued other avenues to finance these deferred projects. Last year, he submitted a request for state funding of $3.5 million for "Priority 1" capital improvements. This went unfunded. George submitted for an Oregon seismic rehabilitation grant.
That didn't make it.
"That's another reason why this bond is important," said George. "Our fixed operating budget is tight. I've put in state requests and the money is just not there; I've put in requests for grants and they weren't funded...So right now, the bond is the
only way we can get this funding – otherwise we just wait it out."
If the bond doesn't pass, George will continue submitting grants for seismic upgrades and similar projects. And he'll wait patiently until Salem can send some money his way for priority deferred maintenance.
"Even if the bond does pass, though, I'm still going to pursue these other avenues," he added. "We really need the money. And without it, our buildings and infrastructure continues deteriorating, and the costs of repair keep adding up."
You can read more about MHCC's May GO Bond, and what it will fund, at mhcc.edu/Bond. Pick up a copy of the Spring edition of College + Community News from around campus for more great news like this about Mt. Hood Community College.