Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

UUSS Campus Renovation & Expansion Project – Cost & Financing Issues–Meeting this Sunday

Frequently Asked Questions for the Congregational Meeting–February 23, 10:30 a.m.

 1.      What is the status of the building project?

As of today, the project is paused, or on hold.  Jackson Construction, the general contractor we have engaged for this project, has provided us with cost estimates for Phase 1a that significantly exceeds the money we have raised to date.  This financial “gap” is approximately $1.1 million.  Before proceeding any further, the members of Implementing the Master Plan (IMP) Committee and the Board of Trustees (BOT) decided it was necessary to pause the project and come up with a funding strategy to close this gap.  This means the construction and move to the Sierra Arden United Church of Christ will not start in May of this year.  A new start date for these events has not been determined.

2.     Where does the gap come from?

The Capital Campaign, sale of the duplex apartments and the identification of UUSS Endowment and Bequest funds resulted in a budget for the project of $2.0 million.  However, Jackson Construction estimates that general contractor costs and competitively bid subcontractor costs for our project will total $3.1 million.  Jackson Construction evaluated our design for a renovated Main Hall/Sanctuary building, landscaping, parking lot and utility repair and improvement–and the costly changes we are required to make by the County–and told us they estimate the project costs would be approximately $3.1 million.  This estimate includes almost $600,000 in infrastructure improvements and costs for parking lot repairs, a new fire hydrant, raising the level of the floor, and sidewalk, gutter and curb installation on Sierra Blvd – all required by our use permit from Sacramento County.  The remainder of the gap is a result of higher construction costs than expected for some of the items, but not all.

3.     What are the options?

The IMP and BOT members have identified 4 alternatives:

A – Raise and/or borrow the additional funds to finance the project as currently designed;

B – Raise and/or borrow additional funds and re-scope the project to match those funds;

C – Re-scope or scale down the project to match only the currently available funds;

D – Stop the project completely.

4.     What is being done now to evaluate the alternatives?

Leadership teams from the IMP/Building Committee and the BOT have initially rejected alternative D.  Due to the time, energy, work and cost already expended, and the great need for repair, upgrade, code compliance and accessibility, it was decided that walking away from the project entirely would be a strategic mistake.  Furthermore, the energy and momentum demonstrated from the calling of Roger as the new Senior Minister indicate strong congregational support for moving forward and growing as a presence in the larger community.  The aging grounds and facilities we have here need to be updated and modernized for the future, and this project is critical to that effort.

A small group of lay leaders has been exploring the option of borrowing from various lenders.  The UU Church in Davis experienced a similar challenge of cost increases with their building project and their members have been very helpful to us in sharing their knowledge and experience.  Members of the IMP team and the Finance Committee have been in touch with lenders and have received indications that we could successfully secure a loan.  In addition, we believe a renovated campus with a new commercial kitchen would result in much higher rental income and would be a strong argument in our loan application.  We also have a strong recent history of annual pledging and giving to the church.

Borrowing for this project would add loan payments or new debt service obligations to our annual budget and the impact of this increase is being analyzed.  The results of pledges made in the current Stewardship Month will be important information to consider our ability to make loan payments.  Our Capital Campaign team is considering options for additional fundraising.

The IMP Committee is exploring new designs for the Sanctuary and Welcome Hall that would reduce the number of structural changes planned in the original design.  This could lower the overall costs.  The use of the RE wing for housing all of our office staff is also being explored as another cost-saving step.

5.      What should UUSS friends and members be doing to stay informed? 

There will be a congregational meeting Sunday, February 23,between the services at 10:30 a.m.  We hope many of you will attend.  This meeting is designed to bring everyone up to date on the project and share more background and context regarding the information in this document.  There will be a brief period to ask questions at the meeting.  Members involved in this project will be available in a classroom this Sunday after the 11:15 service to answer additional questions and solicit ideas and input from you.  Another conversation is being planned for a Sunday in March.  Members should ask questions and share their opinions on the alternatives since this “home remodel” will affect all of us.

This project will transform UUSS for many decades and the support of the congregation is critical to its success.  We all need to be engaged and informed since balancing our annual budget while investing in the future is not just the responsibility of the BOT but one that belongs to the entire congregation.

6.     What is the background of the Master Plan?  What about the Capital Campaign? 

UUSS focus group conversations led to the congregation’s adoption of a long-range plan in 2008.  In 2010 members unanimously approved the 50-year Master Plan for our campus.  The plan included renovation of the existing Main Hall to retain the character of our UUUSS home and to save on the costs of a new structure.   In 2012, a fundraising consultant conducted a feasibility study and then supported us through a successful capital campaign among members and friends.  In 2013 members voted to sell the duplex apartments and use the proceeds for this project.

At 3:00 p.m. Sunday, March 16, lay leaders will hold a Capital Campaign Update.  We will invite those who missed the 2012 campaign.  All members and friends are welcome.


Family Minister Goes to Sunday School–Junior High Youth Group

Last Sunday I was the guest presenter in JHYG, the Junior High Youth Group (grades 6-8).   Ginny, one of the amazing lead teachers, was my host.  Taylor, one of the amazing church dads and leaders here, was a guest teacher.  Ginny’s check in question was “one thing that you appreciate from this past week.”

We talked about sacred space and sacred places, and what makes them sacred or special.  I asked them to take a minute of silence and think about examples of sacred spaces for themselves.  Most folks had something to say.  Taylor talked about sacred places in nature.  Ginny introduced Stonehenge and showed some pictures.

We looked at two posters with lots of pictures of houses of worship from different work religions.  We looked at three posters with color photographs of various UU church buildings around North America.  Most looked vintage post-World War II (like ours, built for the baby boom kids and families), but some dated to the 1800s and King’s Chapel dates to the 1600s (Unitarian since the late 1700s).

I showed them diagrams the size of place mats (and laminated too) showing the whole 6-acre campus.  Made by our Grasshoppers (the volunteers who mow and trim the grass, etc.), the diagram shows the names of all the sections of the campus:  oak grove, memorial garden, patio lawn, minister’s office lawn, preschool playground, main playground, volleyball area, rose bed, etc.  The most intriguing was “twilight zone.”  I passed out the “place mats” and they studied them in small groups.

Then we went on a walking meditation, further delaying enjoyment of Ginny’s homemade cookies.  It was to  be a silent meditation. Before we left, the adults told them about the wildlife that lives here or passes by: squirrels (lots), crows, opossums, wild turkeys, and at least one pair of big bushy-tailed skunks.

I led, and Taylor followed the group at the rear.  We walked by the community garden (UURTHSONG), and down the length of our parking lot, along chain-link fence that separates us from the many two-story apartment buildings.  We walked by the trees and wrought-iron fence separating UUSS from the enormous Woodside Sierra condo complex.  We walked by the rose bed, the oak grove (and looked at the “mini oak trees,” as someone called them later.  The senior high group had planted them in summer with Taylor’s oversight), the big evergreen trees, through the twilight zone to the meorial garden.  We walked by the Ben Franklin Thinking Bench and a few small stones with another former member’s names on them.  Esther Franklin was in the sanctuary with a photo of Ben for our Dia de los Muertos altar.  He died 20 years ago.)

We walked by the creek (drainage ditch between the church and the duplex apartments we own) and then behind the sanctuary exterior and by the two green Dumpsters.  We heard the congregation singing the closing hymn (a bit early!) and then crossed the patio and went back for cookies.

I asked them to pause in silence for a minute and think about what they had noticed.  The responses were varied.  I had noticed two youth giggling now and then.  One noticed another’s squeaky sneakers.  One noticed a pile of paving stones behind the church.  One mentioned a squirrel that didn’t fun from us.

I also noticed how easy it is to take all the different aspects of the campus for granted when one is rushing in and out, or shuttling between two offices.  It certainly shifts your perspective to approach the familiar on foot, and from a different direction.

Then I showed them the new UUSS Master Plan–the recent architectural drawings by Jeff Gold.  I pointed out the classroom building we were in and the additions and changes proposed, and the main hall, with walls to be expanded so it’s a larger space (seating up to 375), and the new restrooms, meeting rooms, storage rooms, AND an all-purpose room (chapel or fellowship room, holding 125 seated).  The main entry for worship would be on the opposite side of the building from where it is now.

Also proposed was a new office building, which would be at the tip of a triangle if you had the base line be the line between the current main office and the minister’s study.  Hence: out in the parking lot, an obvious stopping or welcome place for someone coming during the week to visit the main office, minister or other staff.  This means all offices would be in the same building, and the classrooms in another building, and meeting rooms would be in the worship/fellowship building.

I did show them the “later” plans, which would include a new sanctuary building in the large area where some of the trees are now.  That area was intended for a sanctuary building back in the 1960s.  The hall we have been using for 50 years was built to be the fellowship hall, and it was assumed that a sanctuary would be built separately some time later.

I handed out the architect’s printed plans and the youth studied them together as they sat on their cushions on the floor and ate cookies.  They seemed interested, but not overawed by the prospects for our future. Yet they did not strain to see their parents waiting for them outside the room.  Ginny passed out registration forms for the Middle School UU Gathering (MUUGs) for the current weekend, to take place at a UU church high on a hill in Marin County.  I told those who are going to notice that sacred space, and maybe take a few pictures to show on a future Sunday.

I think that more middle schoolers here have studied the master plan than grown ups.  Some of them will no doubt be enjoying the refurbished, expanded and new spaces in coming decades, and maybe their kids will be eating cookies baked with love by a silver-haired volunteer from their church.