By Steven Cooper in News
Students will vote April 13-17 on whether to build a $16.3 million extension and remodel Clark’s O’Connell Sports Center.
The extension would include an elevated running track, basketball court, cardio room, food vender and a stretching area with exercise machines.
Officers of the Associated Students of Clark College, Clark’s student government, recently scheduled the vote after a yearlong process beginning with a petition last spring.
In February 2014, Clark students David Saldivar, Brittney Barton and Lyubov Meksheneva submitted a petition to ASCC that proposed a new recreation center building.
They said students have limited access to O’Connell Sports Center because of athletics and instruction.
The petition attracted more than 800 signatures from students—well above the 500 necessary for a student vote.
According to Director of Student Life Sarah Gruhler, any student vote will be decided by a simple majority, regardless of turnout.
Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Belden said even if students do vote to support the project, the Clark Board of Trustees gives the final approval.
“Our job is to watch out for their best interest and to make sure we’re not overcommitting them financially,” Belden said.
Belden said he doesn’t believe that the board would overturn a student vote if the vote was conducted properly.
To prepare ballot options, ASCC first examined the possibility of placing a building on the west side of Fort Vancouver way. Architect firm LSW conducted feasibility studies that estimated the building to cost $22 million for construction.
According to Gruhler, students would have had to pay a $6.50 to $7 per-credit fee to fund the building. At the $7 per credit rate, that added up to $105 for a student enrolled in 15 credits.
The price tag caused many to reconsider the proposal and ASCC began examining alternatives, including a remodel and extension to the O’Connell Sports Center.
Gruhler said the most recent cost estimate of an extension is $16.3 million for construction.
According to ASCC Vice President Sarah Swift, ASCC considered including a new building and OSC extension on the ballot, but many officers thought the new building shouldn’t be offered. Swift said in the view of many officers, “It’s just not fair to give them the option of something when it was going to be such a huge price.”
ASCC Student Relations & Promotions Coordinator Anna Evanson said the issue was polarizing. “All of the officers are kind of split down the middle.”
On February 21, the ASCC Executive Council voted to only offer the OSC extension on the ballot.
At $16.3 million in construction costs, Clark hasn’t yet determined how much less the per-credit fee for an extension would be.
This is partly because the current estimate only includes construction. Director of Business Services Sabra Sand said, “We are still working through the construction estimate, projecting equipment costs and determining the maintenance and operations costs for the facility.”
Gruhler also said the final rate depends on the state loan Clark requested to build the extension. For example, a loan that lasts 20 years instead of 15 years would result in a lower per-credit fee paid over a longer time, she said.
Gruhler said the final estimates will be available for student’s before the vote.
What ASCC does know is that the vote will be conducted through Canvas, Clark’s program for online and hybrid classes. All Clark students have an account.
Clark’s Chief Information and Communication Officer Chato Hazelbaker said this is the first time he is aware of Clark using online voting.
According to Hazelbaker, students won’t have to be familiar with the Canvas platform. “It’s more of just using the name and password authentication in Canvas,” he said.
Hazelbaker said the Communications and Marketing Office is working with ASCC to advertise the vote through Clark’s website and social media pages.
The voting week of April 13-17 falls a week after “welcome week,” the first week of Spring Quarter.
Gruhler said ASCC plans to advertise the vote as part of its usual welcome week events and activities.
“We figured that would be good timing, because that really gives us strong push just before the vote to have face time with students to really encourage them to vote,” said Gruhler.
The rec center discussion has lasted longer than many believed it would. Last September, ASCC tentatively said the vote would occur in October, but later decided to postpone it.
But according to Gruhler, the April date is almost guaranteed not to change. “It’s exciting!” she said.