Hanna defends the overspending on the Carona Sheriff Training Academy

Earlier this week I wrote a scathing post about the Rancho Santiago Community College District’s (RSCCD) shuffling of millions of dollars from a math/science building project to a new training facility for the O.C. Sheriffs. The facility celebrated its grand opening yesterday, and sure enough ding dong Santa Ana Councilman Carlos Bustamante showed up for the photo op (see picture above). Not good! The fact that Carlos is supporting the Carona Sheriff Training Academy tells you all you need to know about this project.

Tonight John Hanna, the President of the RSCCD Board of Trustees responded. Let me first say that Hanna is one of the few good guys in Orange County politics. But I STILL don’t like what his board and the RSCCD Bond Oversight Committee did. Below I will present Hanna’s explanation (in italic type) and rebut his response:

Art……..I can not believe that you drank the Register Kool Aid and bought into the mierda that was in the article. I expect jumanji journalism from the Register. They opposed our struggle to obtain the 15 acres on the Tustin Air base. They opposed Measure E. They opposed Measure O. I expect more from you. I expected that if you had some questions about the Register article you would call me, call Eddie Hernandez, call somebody connected with the District to see what our response was before going off on us.

The Tustin issue is a red herring. The issue I am concerned about is whether or not RSCCD made promises to voters that were in fact not kept. Also, I did not slam Hanna or his board. My post was about the RSCCD Bond Oversight Committee…and about the RSCCD Chancellor, Eddie Hernandez, whose comments in the Register article were truly unbelievable.

Also, I did not oppose Measure O – but I also did not support it. Looks like I was right to stay away from it. Remember that the RSCCD board stupidly passed a Project Labor Agreement, or PLA, which restricted bidding on Measure E construction projects to union companies.

“PLAs raise the base construction bids of building schools by 20 percent,” according to an April study by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Massachusetts of PLAs in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

There you go. The RSCCD Board of Trustees signed an ill-advised PLA, that I DID speak out against, and the predictable result was of course higher prices – and they were not able to complete all the projects they had promised to build under Measure E. Thus the need for Measure O, which failed at the polls, in part because the voters were angry about the PLA.

The basic premises of the Register article were false. Consider these facts that the Register did not let get in the way of a good story:

1) There was no bait and switch. Period. Both the ballot statement and virtually every piece of literature that went out in the bond campaign highlighted the need for training facilities for law enforcement. Sheriff Carona was in virtually every mailer we sent out talking about how Measure E would help fund a facility to train law enforcement and first responders.

True – but that was not all that the mailers highlighted. Here is what the RSCCD promised the voters in the ballot statement for Measure E:

Santa Ana/Santiago Canyon Colleges lack adequate libraries, classrooms and labs. Explosive enrollment growth has led to severe overcrowding. Some buildings are 40+ years old. Roofs leak. Worn electrical systems, aging plumbing, and heating systems need renovation. Bathrooms are rundown. Classrooms built before computers/Internet need rewiring for technology. Students need classrooms, lecture halls, science labs, and learning centers.

2) Funds were never shifted from the proposed new science building to the sheriffs training academy. This is a canard. We have completed three new Santa Ana College facilities, three new Santiago Canyon College facilities and completed numerous renovations. Due to a variety of factors all have exceeded the rough estimates that were made in 2002. By the reporters logic all these facilities and renovations “shifted” money away from the proposed new SAC science building. But of course that fact wouldn’t allow the Register reporter to make a “twofer” hit–attack the bond and attack Sheriff Carona.

Note that Hanna does not address the fact that the Carona Sheriff Center ended up costing $30 million, and that money HAD TO come from somewhere. Do the math.

3) The dollar figure used in the ballot measure for the training facility was $15.5 million, not $10 million. And the deputies and officers trained at the academy are Santa Ana College students as well. They generate funds from the state that go back into Santa Ana College for the benefit of all students. And the training provides an important community and regional service.

They might be Santa Ana College students, but the Register reported that “District officials expect that police departments throughout Southern California will send their candidates through the facility.” Figure it out – RSCCD blew our tax money so they could educate cops that in many cases won’t even be working in Orange County! As for the “important community and regional service” – ask the folks at MacArthur Park, who were beaten by cops, how they felt about the service THEY received. If we invested MORE in education, we wouldn’t have to spend as much on cops. But instead of a science center we ended up with a facility to train more cops. Nice to know where RSCCD priorities lie.

4) All projects went over the original 2002 cost estimates because they were just that, estimates. After the bond passed we hired the architects and contractors and found that many of these projects would cost more money. The enormous appetite of China and a post-Katrina U.S. for raw materials increased our material costs over 30%. The building boom in both the public and private secter this decade has reduced the number of contractors and while we have always had sufficient bids, they have been higher then expected because they haven’t been hungry. Land costs escalated significantly as we had to purchase 18 acres near SCC and 4.5 acres near SAC. There were no state funds available for land acquisition and the bond funds were the only way we could complete our master plans for both campuses. Some projects were expanded to provide more efficient use and generate more dollars for the colleges. Art, here is the language from the ballot ” The budget for each project is an estimate and may be effected by factors beyond the District’s control.” The ballot language also said that the District “will work with the Citizens Oversight Committee on prioritizing those projects in the event factors beyond the District’s control require that projects be reconsidered.”

I work in construction. And I KNOW, as do most contractors, that when you do an estimate you adjust it for increased prices. Plus we also know, without a doubt, that the RSCCD screwed the voters by passing an unnecessary PLA – that may have raised prices as much as, you guessed it, twenty percent.

I am looking at the Measure E ballot statement as I write this. It does not mention estimates in the actual statement. It does mention tax estimates, in a section devot
ed to that subject. I am not sure what Hanna is talking about here.

As for the “prioritizing of projects,” what did we expect from a Bond Oversight Committee loaded with Pulido and Carona hacks?

5) Even if the Training Academy had been built for the $15.5 million, the new science building would still not have been built by now. There was no room. You see Art, we already HAVE a science building on campus and Santa Ana College told the District they did not want us to tear down Russell Hall and build a new building on the site. The problem was there was no where to put this new building. So we embarked on a path to purchase the apartments on the west side of College Avenue. We did not wish to use eminent domain so we had to patiently persuade some of the owners to sell and prices esclated. We were delayed by State regulations requiring relocation assistance which also had to be paid. Then we had to wait for the City of Santa Ana to agree to dedicate College Avenue to the college. This took what seemed to be forever. We could not close the street until the City made improvements to the signalized intersection of Bristol and Washington(of which we paid $100,000 towards the improvements). That was just finished and in November we anticipate closing College Avenue(we will be helping fund improvements at two other intersections nearby). At that time we can begin the process of building the new Maintenance and Operations facility on the new west end of the campus. Once that is done, which would be sometime in 2008-09 we can clear the area where the M&O facility currently exists and then, and only then, would we have space for the new science building.

If that is true, then why the heck did you even mention a science building to the voters? It was obviously a SHELL GAME. I realize it sucks to get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, but that is exactly what happened. Don’t blame me and the Register. We just reported how the RSCCD screwed the taxpayers.

6) There has been substantial construction and the voters and taxpayers have received full and good value for their investment. In addition to the training academy in Tustin, Santa Ana College has seen a new Digital Media Center and a new Exercise Science Locker Room facility. We will break ground shortly on a new 16 classroom building. A new child development center is coming soon and nearly $8 million in renovations have occurred on most of the buildings at SAC. And we will build the science building. Students at SAC are being served well.

And cop trainees from outside Orange County are being served better – at their new $30 million Taj Mahal – FOUR MILES from the college campus. The only issue that matters is the one Hanna keeps avoiding. The Carona Sheriff center went fifteen to twenty million over budget, and the money had to come from somewhere, didn’t it?

7) Measure E also underwrote projects at Santiago Canyon College, another point not mentioned in the article. In addition to the land acquisition, SCC has a new library, a new student services building, a new Education Center for adult education and workforce training and additional parking. And a math and science building at SCC will break ground shortly.

Red herrings all. The issue here is that voters were promised a science building at Santa Ana College, which Hanna now says should not have been promised. And the Carona Sheriff Center went WAY OVER budget. And why did the Santiago Canyon campus, which is nestled in the millionaire Orange Hills, get so much, while the Santa Ana College campus got so much less?

The faculty, staff and students at Santa Ana and Santiago Canyon Colleges have been supportive of the decisions made during the bond construction process and they should–we are following their lead as to what their priorities are. Do I wish there was more Measure E funds available for the new science building? You betcha. But I make no apologies for the great progress we have made or for the tens of millions of dollars our District has saved the taxpayers through excellent project management by our staff.

Finally, lay off Eddie Hernandez. While he is the Chancellor, the Board hires him and we make the final decisions. I’m Board President now, if you have a beef with us, come see me. I’ll be at Drinking Liberally Tursday around 9:30 if you want to follow up on any of this.

The only apology I am looking for is the massive overspending on the Carona Sheriff Center, at the expense of projects at Santa Ana College. As for Eddie Hernandez, his comments damned him. Hanna would be advised to tell Eddie to keep his mouth shut in the future, as he is so obviously adept at sticking both his feet down the gullet.

I will leave you with one more quote from Hernandez,

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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.