Construction on the bridge (Jennifer Fink/LARIAT STAFF)
Flooded buildings, leaking windows, and the noise of construction everywhere. Is it ever going to end?
“It’s like your car. If you don’t maintain your car, eventually you get a major problem and you’ve got to pay big bucks.” John Ozurovich, Director of Facilities, said.
Saddleback College has been pulled through the cleaners during the recent heavy rains that reeked havoc on the campus’ buildings and landscape. This did not bode well for the buildings or the campus’ tight budget.
“There are a couple windows in the Student Services building that leak, and we plan to address those. The buckets were put out, not because of a leak or the rain, it was more from some leaks we had from the cafeteria that leaks down to the first floor,” Ozurovich said. “We put a brand new floor in the cafeteria during summer break and we had some issues and a contractor is out fixing those so they should be taken care of.”
A campus as big as Saddleback needs an army of maintenance staff just to keep the grounds wholesome and clean. Yet with the state cutting down on budget, it is nearly impossible for Saddleback to hire more staff.
“First of all, there’s only 65 people in maintenance and operation.” Ozurovich said.
That number of employees is barely keeping up with the demands of the maintenance this campus calls for. But in economic times such as these, Ozurovich explains, we can hardly afford to expand staff.
Now adding to the growing laundry list and stresses of everyday wear and tear maintenance jobs is the issue of expired Elevator permits on campus.
Hundreds of students ride the elevator cars everyday, some multiple times a day. Those elevators are used constantly, and are under constant strain.
“I would be concerned about taking an elevator that has an expired inspection permit. It would be like playing Russian roulette while taking the elevator.” Lynn Womack, undeclared, said.
The permits currently on display in the elevator cars have been expired since June, 6, 2009, a fact that contradicts the California Labor Code [section 7320]:
“The division may assess a civil penalty of up to 1,000 dollars against any person owning or having custody, management, or operation of an elevator, who operates the elevator without a permit or who fails to conspicuously post the permit in the elevator car.”
In laymen’s terms, this means that Saddleback College could owe a hefty $1,000 fine to the state just for not displaying an up-to-date permit in the elevator car. Though it certainly seems that the elevators have not been seen for their yearly state inspection, therefore no current permit available for display.
“They’re supposed to be inspected once a year,” Ozurovich said. “I can’t remember the last time they’ve done it. The budget cuts have sort of affected that.”
It takes about one month for the state to come out and inspect
The debts of California have grown even larger in the past year, even resulting in Governor Schwarzenegger selling the beloved Orange County Fair Grounds much to the dismay of the surrounding community.
According to the ‘Status Report on California’s Bond Debt Assembly Budget Hearing’, California’s debt tops out at 83.5 billion dollars as of Dec. 1 and is continuing to grow.
“Our district is doing fine,” Ozurovich said, “but that’s state. Those are state employees that do the [elevator] inspection.”
Even though state employees do the yearly inspections, Ozurovich explained, Saddleback college keeps an elevator maintenance company on the payroll.
“They are out here at least monthly doing preventative maintenance on the elevators. And they’re the ones who repair the elevators and in addition make improvements once they’re inspected by the state.”
The question is when will the state come out to inspect?
Some students feel positively about the matter.
“If the elevator was working good, then yeah, I’d feel safe.” Alysha Moore, musical theater, 19, said.
This permit alert follows in the wake of the elevator catastrophe in Dubai, where 15 people were trapped in an elevator for 45 min. while the fire department tried desperately to rescue them. This isn’t exactly Dubai, or a sky-scraper for that matter, but elevator entrapment remains a serious danger.
Meanwhile, students have been flung into inconvenience as such structures as the bridge in front of the Library building have been shut down. The reason for this closure: dry rot.
Recently inspected, the bridge was deemed a hazard when the two beams supporting the structure were found to be plagued with the wood disintegration.
The bridge is now planned to be completely torn down and rebuilt according to John Ozurovich, the Director of Facilities here at Saddleback College.
“A big part of my job is planning and supervising the major projects on the campus.” Ozurovich said. “It’s ensuring the operation of the department.”
This tear-down will not begin until around June 1, Ozurovich said, when construction on the Library building commences.
Also a nuisance for students is the current location of the recently moved library. Now located in the Village, it is quite a hike from main campus, and once one enters the sparse building, it is a bit of a disappointment.
“It’s pretty much inconvenient,” Lauren Barasi, 25, Psychology, said of the new library location. “There’re no restrooms around. It’s my first time coming here and I don’t really like it. But I can’t do anything about it.”
This rings especially true for students not having access to a home computer. Now students either have to drive down from main campus and fight for a parking spot all over again, or make the lengthy trek down to the Village by foot. Something not to look forward to when the weather becomes hotter.
“I think that the whole campus is in disrepair and that they’ve spent their money really poorly,” said Jeff Parkin, 35, film studies. “The whole Village is a joke.”
Then where is all that money going to?
A reportedly 20 million dollars will be spent to revamp the old library building, a project that will not be completed until next summer.
Many students have expressed their disapproval of the Village, mainly because of its far removal from campus, dubbing it the common nick-name of the ‘boonies’. But Ozurovich expressed big construction plans for the ‘boonies’ area.
“We’re expanding the Village. We’re putting in 32 module buildings. We’re renovating the old Gaucho strength center, that’s going become the communication arts studios. We just finished putting in a brand new strength center in the P.E. building.”
When asked how long this construction will last on the Village, the outcome looks uncertain.
“That’s a good question. The contractor on that job has defaulted.” Ozurovich said. “We’re trying to replace that contractor. We’re hoping to get that done so we can conduct classes in the summer.”
According to some students though, those aren’t the only buildings needing attention.
“They need to rebuild the art buildings,” Moore said. “The dance floor is really dirty and I can never put my feet on the floor. It’s really gross.”
From dry rot to expired elevator permits, Saddleback college has commenced
the new decade with a rocky start. Budget cuts from the state and drastic weather conditions have affected the efficiency of the Saddleback maintenance department. If Saddleback can come out on top of this rubble-pile mess, only time will tell.