Cuesta College Board of Trustees accepted Superintendent/President Dr. Gil Stork’s recommendation at Wednesday’s board meeting to eliminate a Grover Beach industrial park as the site for the college’s proposed South County Education Center.

The site at 998 Huston Street is no longer in contention because the college could not come to a mutually acceptable lease agreement with the building owner to keep the project within the college’s budget.

“While the Huston Street property is no longer a viable option, the South County Education Center project is still alive,” said Dr. Stork. “The need to provide our students in the South County with a learning environment on par with the North County and San Luis Obispo campuses is still a critical one. Just as important is our need to find a viable site that is cost-neutral to the district.”

Cuesta College has been renting classroom space from Lucia Mar Unified School District since the 1965, and Dr. Stork has maintained from the outset of the campaign that a new location would only be viable if the college’s rental costs did not increase at a new facility.

In an unprecedented move, a majority of the donors who have pledged approximately $750,000 towards the project, agreed to keep their pledges in place for use at an alternative site while the search continues.

In response to their support, Dr. Stork founded the President’s South County Community Council composed of members from the Foundation’s Campaign Gifts Committee and prominent local supporters of education. The purpose of the council is to offer recommendations about the project and to actively seek alternative locations for the new site in the Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach areas.

The President’s South County Community Council includes local volunteers Ken Levine, Gracia Bello, Roxanne Carr, Charlie Cabassi, Jacqueline Frederick, Mike Frederick, Doug Hilton, Vard Ikeda, Howard Mankins, Mike Miner, Carroll Pruett, Rob Strong, Iris Swisher and Anita Robinson.

“The community has really rallied around the concept of a stand-alone South County Education Center,” said Barbara George, interim executive director of the Foundation. “The support from donors, local businesses and elected officials has been very motivating for everyone involved. They are just as invested in the success of this project as we are.”

To garner support for the project, several presentations were made to donors and friends of the college and to elected officials at city council meetings in Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Pismo Beach.

A recent survey also proved student support for the project. In a sampling of 380 student opinions, 98 percent thought it was important to have a South County Education Center.

The President’s South County Community Council is seeking assistance from public and private partnerships to locate a new space for Cuesta College in the South County.

“I’m heartened by the support of the community,” Dr. Stork said. “They’ve encouraged us to push forward to make this long-time dream of South County residents and Cuesta College supporters a reality.”

Released March 9, 2011