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New vote will cause fees to jump

By Peter Castillo

Editor-in-Chief

An expansion to the Student Union and a new aquatics center is on the table for CSU Bakersfield students.

During ASI’s board of directors meeting on Jan. 26, the executive board introduced a new bill that will expand the size of the Student Union and add an aquatics center to the Student Recreation Center.

It will now be up to CSUB students to decide whether they want the new additions, and if they are willing to take on the price tag that comes with it.

The additional cost will begin at $60 per year, with $40 going toward the Student Union and $20 toward the aquatics center.

The fee will increase $40 every year until it caps at $160 and is only applied to the Student Union fee, according to ASI President Mariela Gomez. The $20 fee for the aquatics center will remain a fixed amount.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said senior criminal justice major Jaritza Velasco. “It gives us more room to study, and plus, I like to swim.”

However, not all students feel the upgrade is necessary. “It’s not necessary, it’s a luxury,” said Katharine Cotzajay, a senior psychology major. “I think something like the Edible Garden should be the focus. More students can use it instead of a pool.”

The Edible Garden is a student-led initiative which will provide students with fresh produce. However, not many strides have been made toward this effort.

Students currently pay $468 annually towards a student body fee which applies to both the Student Union and the SRC.

The Student Union fee is $94 annually while the SRC fee is $374.50 per year.

Should the vote pass this number will increase to $628 annually.

The expected total cost of the expansion of the Student Union will be roughly $25 to $27 million, while the expected final cost for the new aquatics center will be around $8 to $10 million.

Students are scheduled to vote from Feb. 21 to 22 via RunnerSync.

Under state legislature, only academic buildings are funded by the state. The Student Union and Student Recreation Center do not fall under this category.

These buildings are funded by students.

If the referendum is passed on Feb. 22, the student fee will be applied as soon as Fall 2018.

“The reason the fee begins so low is because the goal is by year three we already collected enough money to begin construction,” said Gomez. “So by year three or four, students are seeing the construction of it.”

The SRC already has $3 million in reserves to use toward the construction of the aquatics center. This money is collected through student fees.

However, the Student Union does not have reserve funds that could possibly go toward this project.

“That was one of the issues in 1994 when the referendum passed for the construction of the Student Union,” said Gomez. “They weren’t thinking long term. They didn’t think in the future we would need a savings or reserves account to continue expanding the Student Union.”

On Jan. 29, conceptual floor plans were presented to students on the Student Union Patio.

The designs are not finalized but they feature a second floor, a ballroom for large events, additional office space and other areas for leisurely activity.

B&D, a consulting firm, was hired by the Student Union in 2016 to gauge the needs of students and what they felt could be improved from the current Student Union.

Director of the Student Union EJ Callahan said the firm conducted focus groups, electronic surveys and met with campus stakeholders.

“Students felt the need was large event space, meeting and study rooms, game room, expanded food options and an outdoor pool,” said Callahan.

Over 1,200 students completed the survey. According to Callahan, the expansion of the Student Union will be completed roughly four years from the time student fees are initially raised.

The SRC conducts an annual poll which identifies students’ needs. Over 70 percent of the estimated 2,000 students who were polled in the survey over the last two years felt the need for a recreation pool.

“We ask students what they would like to see in the facility,” said Mary O’Mahoney, director of the SRC. “The need for a pool was the overwhelming favorite.”

According to O’Mahoney, there are a few options on the table for the design of the aquatics center, including a two-pool option.

“I want what the students want and it’s my job to gather the information from them,” said O’Mahoney. “The two-pool option makes the most sense to me because it allows us to offer more programs.”

The designs for the aquatics center include shaded cabanas, locker rooms and showers.

The aquatics center is expected to take about a year and half to complete.

CSUB students currently have access to the Hillman Aquatics Center. However, students only have access to the pool for one hour per day.

Should the referendum pass, it would create 25 to 30 new student jobs at both the new Student Union and the aquatics center.

In the case that a student graduates prior to the completion of the two projects, they will still be able to use the facilities for the number of semesters they paid for. The SRC used a similar policy when it was constructed.

According to O’Mahoney, if a student payed the fee for two semesters and then graduated, they would be able to attend the aquatics center for two semesters after they graduated.

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