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Peralta Trustees Elect New Officers By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Vista College Construction On Schedule  


The Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees moved into a new era this week with the election of trustee Linda Handy to the position of board president and Bill Withrow as vice president during the trustees’ regular meeting. 

In addition, trustees heard representatives of the Vista College construction project in Berkeley say that the project is on track, and the move to the new building is still scheduled to be made as scheduled at the end of the 2006 spring semester. Vista Project Manager Jeff Gee, vice president of Swinerton Management & Consulting Company said of the project, “It’s been a long journey, but the end is in sight.” 

Handy was unanimously elected to the board presidency to replace Bill Riley in the board’s annual officer elections. Withrow was also unanimously elected to replace Handy as vice president. 

Handy was elected to her trustee position in November 2002 over incumbent Brenda Knight in part because of community fiscal concerns about former Peralta Chancellor Ronald Temple. Following her election, Temple was ousted and replaced by current chancellor Elihu Harris. 

Withrow is part of the four-person trustee freshman class of 2004, which includes trustees Nicky González Yuen, Cy Gulassa, and Marcie Hodge—all elected last November after incumbent trustees chose not to run for re-election. Counting Handy’s 2002 election, that means that five of the seven Peralta trustees have been elected to the board in the past three years. 

These new board members have spearheaded increased fiscal oversight and controls within a district that was plagued with financial embarrassments during the Temple years. 

That increased oversight was reflected last week in Gee’s report to the trustees at last week’s meeting on change orders in the $65.9 million Vista construction project. Such change orders have been a continuing source of board controversy over the past year and has led to a number of new board policies of fiscal control. 

Gee reported that Swinerton had approved $1.09 million of the $2.2 million in change orders submitted by Vista project contractors, and called the change order figure “well within the standard of care within the design and construction industry.” 

Gee said that some of the unapproved $1 million in requested change orders had not been rejected by Swinerton but instead were still under additional review. 

He also said that he expected the total change order figure to end up between $2 million and $2.3 million. He said that the bulk of those change orders—$648,000—had been initiated by the district itself, while only $140,000 had been requested by project contractors. 

Past discussions of Vista construction change orders had often led to long and sometimes rancorous debates among trustees, many of them led by Berkeley trustee Nicky González Yuen, who has been one of the most vocal critics of many of Vista’s past construction change orders. But in a measure of how the temperature over the change order issue has lowered, trustees asked few questions of Gee at last week’s meeting, and Yuen asked none at all.