School District Gets Edna Maguire Project Back on Track

Six weeks after a lawsuit from a group of neighbors was settled, the planned $36 million overhaul of the Lomita Drive elementary school is on schedule as board approves construction documents.

Six weeks after the over the of , the project is back on track and preparations are kicking into high gear.

The Mill Valley school board approved the final construction documents for the project Wednesday night, and district officials expect the board award a contract for the project at its April 18 meeting.

“Less than two months from now, we will have a shovel in the ground at Edna Maguire – the time is here,” said Pete Norgaard of Van Pelt Construction Services, which is managing the district-wide modernization plan being paid for through Measure C, the $59.8 million bond measure approved by voters in November 2009.

Wally Gordon of DLM Architects, which designed the project, presented the final construction documents to the board, noting the changes that had been made through the course of the lengthy planning process and highlighting the array of improvements in the project.

“We’re really at a point of inflection right now,” Gordon said.

Mari Allen, the co-president of the Mill Valley PTA Council and an Edna parent, said she’d surveyed dozens of parents over the years about the things they’d like to see included in a new Edna Maguire campus.

“Seeing all of those things incorporated into this – it gives me chills,” she said. “We’re so excited.”

The excitement at Wednesday night’s meeting provided a stark contrast to the months leading up to the Feb. 3 settlement of a . In the lawsuits, , the neighbors claimed that the district didn’t sufficiently address their concerns over issues like parking, traffic and the aesthetics of the proposed new campus, and thus was in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

As settlement negotiations continued into December, . In , the district made a number of modifications to the project, including changing the traffic configuration, adding parking and a series of restrictions on the use of the school’s multi-purpose room by outside organizations.

The district also agreed to lower the height of lights in the parking lot and plant some trees to lessen the impact of campus activity on Lomita residents. The district also agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees to the tune of $61,485.

The construction schedule calls for workers to begin preparing the building pad and underground utilities for the interim school campus on Alto Field in early May. Norgaard said the Mill Valley Little League and Mill Valley Soccer have been “extremely cooperative” in accommodating that work on one of the busiest fields in Mill Valley.

Norgaard said the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD), which had to relocate a 100-year-old water line running through the Edna campus when the lawsuit was filed, is expected to begin that project on June 18, the first weekday after the conclusion of the 2011-2012 school year. The construction will kick off at that time too, Norgaard said.

“Away we go,” Norgaard said said.


In an effort to keeps costs down and ensure the project finishes within the very tight 15-to 18-month construction timeline, the district has shifted to a new construction format for the Edna overhaul, as well as the summer-long modernization projects set to begin in June at .

The format is called lease-leaseback, a strategy that has been around since the 1980s but has become more popular in recent years as cash-strapped public school districts look for the quickest and cheapest routes to building projects. The lease-leaseback strategy calls for districts to hire a developer-contractor to design and build a project. The school district, which owns the property, leases it to the general contractor during the construction phase, enabling the project to move faster. The developer then leases the property back to the district until construction is completed and the district buys out the lease.

Tim Ryan, the district’s director of maintenance and operations, said the district’s move away from the traditional “design-bid-build” format — where designers and contractors bid and the low bid wins – was spurred by Superintendent Paul Johnson, who had success with it in his time as head of the Loomis Union School District in Placer County. The board backed the switch last month.

Ryan said the shift gives the district the ability to select a contractor based on the best value as opposed to the lowest bid, and also is less likely to result in an adversarial relationship with the contractor, as the parties are able to work together and get on the same page very early on in the process.

“For design-bid-build, those are lower initial bid prices but it’s never what you end up paying in the end,” Ryan said.

The district has selected Lathrop Construction Benecia and Richmond-based Overaa Construction, which built the in 2009. Those two firms will be submitted their proposals by April 13, and the school board is expected to approve one of them at its April 18 meeting.


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