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Taxpayers Association: Proposed Grossmont College Deal Could Drive Up Costs

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Grossmon-Cuyamaca Community College District

The Griffin Center at Grossmont College is pictured in this undated photo.

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association voiced opposition Thursday to a proposal by the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District to adopt a deal for a $398 million construction bond that the association says could drive up costs.

The taxpayer group contends that approval of a Project Labor Agreement would break the terms of their endorsement of Proposition V, which gained 58.2 percent of the votes during the November 2012 general election.

By calling attention to the proposal, the SDCTA hopes to turn out East County voters to district governing board meetings scheduled for Tuesday — a workshop on PLAs at 4 p.m. and a regular meeting at 6:30 p.m., when the proposal will be considered. Both meetings are at the Grossmont College Griffin Gate student center.

"The GCCCD sought out our endorsement because they knew it carries enormous weight with voters as they evaluate a bond measure," said Theresa Andrews, SDCTA's interim president and CEO. "We granted our support precisely because of their promise to bid the taxpayer-funded projects fairly, which we believe results in lower costs for the public."

“We believe that by going into negotiations with a union for a labor agreement for a future bond project breaks that promise,” Andrews said.

A resolution passed by the GCCCD board in August 2012 said the district would "promote fair and open competition for all district construction projects so that all contractors and workers, whether union or non-union, are treated equally in the bidding and awarding of district construction contracts."

PLAs generally set terms for wages and working conditions at major construction projects in exchange for labor peace. For unions, the agreements fulfill goals of stable pay for members and hiring of local workers.

Critics contend that the conditions set forth in PLAs effectively prevent non-union shops from bidding on construction work, raising the cost of each project. Higher costs result in a bond delivering less than what was promised to voters, according to the argument.

"Governing board members will make their decision after listening carefully to both sides on the issue," said a district statement sent by spokeswoman Anne Krueger. "With Proposition R, the district has a strong record of its bond projects being built on time and within budget, and we are being vigilant to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent well on Proposition V projects."

Proposition R was a prior construction bond that, among other things, resulted in Griffin Gate getting built. Proposition V work is gearing up on an $82.7 million Arts and Communication Complex, with construction set to begin in February 2017, according to the district. The facility will replace aging classrooms and include a new 350-seat theater and concert hall at the campus in El Cajon.

An architect has been selected to begin the design process for a Science Math and Career Tech Complex, a $51.2 million project scheduled to start construction in September 2017.

At Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego, Proposition V funds are set to go toward an $11.5 million facility to be built in 2018 for the college's Ornamental Horticulture Department, and a $34 million Student Services building that's scheduled for construction in 2019.

Money is also slated to be spent on repairing roofs, improving energy efficiency and replacing heating, air-conditioning and plumbing systems.

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