SOCCCD seeks to avoid L.A. district woes

Average annual budgets for LACCD’s, SDCCD’s and SOCCCD’s facilities departments. LACCD could be wasting tens of millions of dollars, according to the Los Angeles Times. (Adam Jones/Julie Tran)

Adam Jones

The South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees expressed concern last Monday about the problems that the Los Angeles Community College District recently experienced in regards to poor planning, frivolous spending, and shoddy workmanship with a number of contractors and construction projects.

According to a recent Los Angeles Times investigation, tens of millions of dollars have been wasted due to a number of oversights in LACCD. The SOCCCD Trustees wanted to be sure that the same oversight would not plague the upcoming construction at Saddleback College, Irvine Valley College, and the Advanced Technical Education Park campuses.

“It is sincerely with heavy hearts that we see a neighboring community college district experience this confluence of construction pitfalls in such an overwhelming manner,” said Facilities Planning and Purchasing Director Brandye D’lena, for SOCCCD.

According to the LA Times, bond money has paid for many valuable improvements in the LACCD system. These improvements include new science buildings, libraries, stadiums, and computer centers.

Unfortunately, despite these positives, a number of costly blunders have denied the LACCD’s 142,000 students the full potential of one of California’s largest public works programs, according to the LA Times.

D’lena was confident that these unfortunate circumstances would not befall the projects planned on SOCCCD campuses. The SOCCCD Facilities Planning staff consists of D’lena, Walt Rice, the Assistant Facilities Planning Director, and Directors of Facilities John Ozurovich and John Edwards.

“With the four of us, we are able to oversee all of our construction and capital improvement projects in a hands on effort,” D’lena said. “One of the major issues that was taken in the LA Times articles was that there were once removed or twice removed positions for the management there.”

LACCD’s facilities department has spent, on average, $225 million per year on their nine campuses. SOCCCD spends, on average, $30.5 million per year at Saddleback, IVC, and ATEP. For comparison, the San Diego Community College district spent an average of $63.7 million a year. SOCCCD has a smaller amount of money to deal with, and plans to keep a watchful eye on where the funds are going.

The layering of consultants, a process in which the management hires a consultant, who then goes on to hire another consultant, and so on, can result in difficulty tracking costs and responsibilities. In LACCD, the layering of consultants may have lead to some of the problems that the district is now facing.

“We do layer consultants here. We hire architects in order for them to provide us with a comprehensive design. Those architects need to hire engineers in order to do that,” D’lena said. “It is their liability. So we wouldn’t necessarily want to go outside of the architect’s purview, and assign to them engineers.”

D’lena explained how the proposed science building at Saddleback could be done with the layering of consultants, or by directly hiring specific specialty consultants, to avoid layering.

“The scrutiny around this matter, however, will result in our continued careful analysis of what is best for the district,” D’lena said.