Clatsop Community College's bond request to fund a new Warrenton campus met crushing defeat in Tuesday's election, failing 55 percent to 45 percent and logging too low a voter turnout to pass, even if it had more support.
A 50 percent turnout was required for the measure to pass, which means 10,468 had to vote, and a majority of them in favor. But just 9,941 ballots were cast in Tuesday's election, putting CCC at odds with both parts of the double-majority requirement.
Measure 4-122 would have authorized the college to issue $22 million in bonds over 21 years, payable from county property taxes. The money was meant to help finance a $60 million new campus in Warrenton.
Tuesday wasn't the first time CCC met defeat. In 2002, voters shot down a measure to fund new buildings and improvements at the present campus. Last November, they rejected plans to construct new facilities, lilely on Astoria's John Warren Field.
Now, college leaders will likely again focus attention on the present 16th Street and Jerome Avenue campus. But they said that will become more clear after a meeting Tuesday.
"We will move forward," said Clatsop Community College President Greg Hamann. "Our most likely scenario is to use resources we have" to improve the existing location, he said. "It will take some time to figure out what's most important."
Administrators have identified a variety of problems over the years at CCC's campus, the largest being physical access to the buildings for people with disabilities, followed by limited space for expansion. Built on a steep Astoria hillside, the oldest buildings date to the early 1900s.
The college has $7.5 million from the state that must be spent by July 2009, and which it matched by borrowing for a total $15 million. CCC was also in the running for more capital construction money from the state, having been identified as the top priority of 15 community college building projects. While earlier budget drafts were grim, the big legislative news Tuesday was that Oregon expects an extra $152 million to spend in its next two-year budget, and the budget chiefs have agreed to commit 75 cents for every $1 to community colleges and public universities.
"The irony of this is the (budget) co-chairs were talking extremely positively about capital construction for us," Hamann said. "I don't think there was ever a doubt for this project at the state level. Of course, that's a nonissue without passing our own local support."
He said he was happy for Tillamook Bay Community College, which was successful with its third pitch to voters to help fund new facilities. "Maybe someday we'll do the same," Hamann said, noting he plans to stick around.
"The whole education system is under threat right now, I think good presidents at the Oregon University System and community colleges are challenged to stay given the current level of support," he said. "But I love this place. This place is in my blood, and I'm committed."
Board members Paul Gillum, Marilyn Lane and Larry Sparks were all re-elected to their seats Tuesday, despite voters' rejection of the bond they supported.
Gillum said the board would make do and move ahead.
Lane voiced frustration.
"I'm really disappointed in the results of the election," she said. "The board has made a determination that we really do need a new campus. Now that voters have not supported that, we're just going to have to go back and decide what will be our next steps." Lane wasn't willing to give details of what those steps might entail.
College board Chairwoman Rosemary Baker-Monaghan said CCC's next moves could take shape at the directors' regular meeting Tuesday, and solving access issues will likely remain the priority.
"We will be talking about what's next," she said. "We do have $15 million, and that's a gift. We'll talk about what's the most effective and efficient way to utilize that money, to get as much out of it as we can, and to provide the campus with the tools it needs for our teachers to do what they do best."