Allan Hancock College
The Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association endorses Measure Y to finance Allan Hancock College improvements, including a new fine arts building. College Superintendent/CEO Kevin Walthers, left, speaks about the measure. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

With deteriorating facilities in need of replacement or upgrades, Allan Hancock College is asking voters to approve a bond measure to finance the building of a fine arts complex and other projects, an effort drawing broad support in the North County.

Measure Y,  a $75 million bond proposal, requires 55 percent approval from voters in the district to pass. The community college district includes the Santa Maria, Lompoc, Santa Ynez and Cuyama valleys.

Since the community college district will cancel $34 million in unspent funds from Measure I, which was approved in 2006, the 2018 bond would allocate $41 million in new money.

“Measure Y builds on some of the good work we’ve already been doing,” Superintendent/President Kevin Walthers said during a Lompoc forum. 

Walthers and others have been busy talking about the bond measure to garner support. It gained the backing of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association on Thursday. 

“We have carefully reviewed Measure Y, and we believe that it is an excellent investment in the future of North County,” said Lanny Ebenstein, education chair for the association.

Calling the bond measure “reasonable,” Ebenstein said the community college is great for the economy in North County.

“We think the advantages that will come to Santa Maria and all of North County — Lompoc and the Santa Ynez Valley — will well exceed this investment,” Ebenstein said, praising the college, administrators and board.

The Chambers of Commerce in the Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Ynez valleys also endorsed Measure Y along with several other groups, such as the Southwest Carpenters Council, the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau, the Democratic Club of Santa Maria Valley, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 413, CAUSE, the Santa Maria-Lompoc NAACP and the college’s Part-Time Faculty Association.

The measure adds up to $11 per $100,000 of the assessed value for property owners in the Hancock district.

The bond measure comes as the district has launched its Promise Program providing at least one year of free tuition for local high school graduates.

Allan Hancock College

Allan Hancock College’s aging fine arts building has prompted the push for approval of Measure Y, a $75 million bond measure. (Allan Hancock College photo)

Previous bond measure have transformed Hancock’s Santa Maria campus and Lompoc Valley Center, Walthers said, adding, “There’s still work to be done.”

College leaders say the bond measure is needed to complete the fine arts complex and other projects, including those related to athletics and technology programs.

In addition to bond funds, Hancock will receive $24 million from the state for the fine arts complex plus another $10 million for the Patty Boyd bequest to create a recital hall with about 400 seats. 

Fine arts programs currently operate from five buildings on the campus, according to John Hood, chairman of the Fine Arts Department. More than half of the students at Hancock — more than 5,000 — go through the Fine Arts Department’s nine programs, ranging from performing arts and filmmaking to graphic arts and more. 

“We make a big impact,” Hood said during the Lompoc forum. “It would be nice to be together. It would be nice to have heating and air that worked, some hot water. We make due with something that has been designed 50 years ago, and we just keep growing and growing as a department.”

Other projects call for updating physical education facilities, which also were first built in the 1960s.

“It’s just worn out,” Walthers said of the building, noting that it houses student athletes who graduate at a higher rate than regular students.

During a recent tour, an architect who played for the Hancock Bulldogs football team in the 1970s remarked that the facility looked the same.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of maintaining it, but it’s really time to replace it,” Walthers said.

At the Lompoc campus, home to the Public Safety Training Center, Walthers said bond funds could help expand the 1.3-mile track for first responders to hone driving skills. Other funds would help purchase equipment for the Solvang Theatrefest, he added.

From the start, Hancock’s new bond measure has lacked support from trustee Dan Hilker, who voted against putting the item to voters and signed the opposition arguments in the sample ballot. Opponents contend that the community college administrators have been deceptive and question the district’s previous spending. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.