Williams Unified stymied by bond failure 


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Construction of new facilities at Williams Unified School District continues to move forward, thanks to voters who approved borrowing four years ago. But the failure of Measure C, in the March 3 primary, has officials worried about their facility needs in the future. 

“We’re not the only district to find ourselves in that situation,” said Superintendent Edgar Lampkin. “But we are proud of the fact that we were at 45 percent, very close to getting there.” 

According to election results, some 70 percent of school bonds, at the district level, failed earlier this month – a sharp contrast to the 2018 California midterm election, which saw an approval rate of 80 percent. Even Proposition 13, which was also on the ballot as a statewide bond measure, was the first bond to fail in California in 30 years. Proposition 13 would have earmarked additional funds to school districts to repair, replace, and build new facilities. 

Lampkin said having three school bonds on the same ballot (a phenomenon known as bond fatigue) might have had something to do with voters saying no. 

In addition to Woodland College putting forth a bond measure, asking voters to increase property taxes to pay for new facilities, Proposition 13 on the same ballot didn’t help, Lampkin said. 

The failure of Measure C will have Williams Unified officials rethinking their future needs or thinking about the November 2020 presidential election.  

“We still have some work to do with our community to help them understand the tremendous amount of positive work that we are doing in regards to construction,” he said. “The evidence is in the pudding. They are going to see changes unfold. For some people, it does take longer.” 

Lampkin said the district will regroup, but added that failure of the bond does put the brakes on the district’s 10-year facility master plan and will slow the progress the district has been making in building, repairing, and replacing school facilities, largely because the district uses bond funding to leverage matching funds from the state. 

Meanwhile, the school board on March 11 contacted ABS Builders, Inc. for the Williams Jr./Sr. High School gymnasium project and upgrades to the North Wing restrooms. 

“We’re just really looking forward to doing this project for the district,” said CEO Amy Schmidt, of Colusa. “We worked with the district before. We did the kindergarten parking lot project a few years back. We are a general contractor here in Colusa County. There are not a lot of us who are able to do public projects, so when we get to work in our own backyard it’s just an extra coop, especially in the schools. The schools are really the cornerstone of the community.” 

Jeff Threet, of Stone Creek Engineering, Inc., who oversees the construction of new Williams facilities, said the district has used mostly local subcontractors on the projects, and that work – including the construction of the new elementary school multipurpose room – is on schedule. ■