Cuesta looking for project bids

Cuesta College’s North County campus will once again seek bids in upcoming weeks for its long-planned trade and technology complex — a move that could position the college to pursue state grant money.

If the deal goes through, the complex would be the third permanent education space on the campus off Highway 46 East in Paso Robles.

The project has been in the college’s master plan since 1999. But the future of the buildings is not guaranteed, Cuesta officials said Wednesday.

If the college can’t fund the project, the state could take away its $7 million allotment from its 2002 higher-education construction bond.

Past bids have exceeded the grant amount, which has halted the project. Past bid amounts were not immediately available.

To help keep the bond money, Cuesta will submit the lowest bid it receives in the next round to the state in hopes that the difference could be made up with grant money.

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office invited Cuesta officials to do so.

If the state agrees to augment the funds, construction is estimated to begin on the project in the spring, officials said.

The Paso Robles City Council on Tuesday approved the use of city Redevelopment Agency money to help make the project more desirable for grant funding.

The agency agreed to use the redevelopment money already set aside for Cuesta to make the proposed 23-acre site on Buena Vista Drive across from the existing campus ready for construction. Specifically, the city agency would pay to build the infrastructure for water, sewer and roads.

“We have to show we have a plan to complete all the pieces of the project,” said Sandee McLaughlin, executive dean of the North County campus.

The bond won’t pay for that type of work, she added.

The city would either move money to the Redevelopment Agency or sell bonds to front the cash while the district would pay off the debt.

Automotive, welding, construction, electronics and viticulture are among the educational programs that would be the new complex’s focus. There would also be computer labs as well as business and engineering classrooms.

The project includes three buildings totaling about 17,500 square feet to be built around an interior courtyard. There will be a main two-story building and two smaller buildings.

City officials say they look forward to the trained local craftspeople staying close to home after honing skills in the new program.

“The complex will establish a strong and viable vocational program for the North County,” Paso Robles City Manager Jim App said.