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La Honda-Pescadero schools cited for violation

State engineers haven'€™t received building permits

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Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 12:00 am

Multimillion dollar construction at Pescadero High School could hit a wall if the Division of State Architect doesn’t receive building permits from the project manager, state officials say.

Project Manager John Croswhite encountered a few snags regarding building permits during the summer, causing unforeseen delays in construction equivalent to roughly 28 working days, according to school Superintendent Tim Beard. Yet the school board pushed on hastily in attempts to get the facility up and running in time for the new school year.

“If I had those days back, that would’ve been good, but we wanted to stay on schedule and get the school open on time,” Beard said. “Was everything perfect and completed (when school started)? No. Was everything legal? Yes.”

However, on Sept. 10 Oakland DSA issued the district a Notice of Violation for erecting portable classrooms without authorization.

“They’re supposed to (obtain) a permit from DSA for doing construction … but nothing was approved (by DSA),” said DSA Structural Engineer Jyouru Lyang.

Lyang said he visited the high school campus in early September accompanied by Croswhite and that there was no inspector on the premise — a “bad sign,” he said. The Notice of Violation was issued after Lyang noted construction of the portables and requested the inspector’s information, which he said he has not received.

“They haven’t submitted anything to us, even after we sent them the notice of violation,” said Nat Chauhan, Oakland DSA regional manager. “Until we receive the drawings we won’t know if what they’re building is acceptable and meets DSA requirements or not. At this point, we have no idea what they are doing.

“The consequences are that, if they are doing work without approval, if something goes wrong or someone gets hurt, it’s a liability for the school board members,” he said.

Croswhite and Beard, the two men responsible for overseeing construction and reporting to the school board, say they have complied with all permitting requirements thus far.

“We have followed all of the regulations,” Beard said. “We have not in any way skirted any of the responsibilities to get the school open and safe for our kids.”

“As we walk through this we’re taking care of everything that’s being presented,” Croswhite said. “When there is an issue, we’ve responded on the spot or very quickly.”

Croswhite maintains that there is “zero new construction” happening at the high school and that if there was, DSA would have shut the project down.

According to Chauhan, the project may currently be days away from being halted. By the end of this week, Chauhan said, he will be issuing the board an Order to Comply with the Notice of Violation.

“In 10 days (after issuing the Order to Comply) they are to tell us what they’re doing to comply,” he said. “If not, then we send the superintendent a stop work order.”

But Beard is confident the permits are in order and that the error is one of miscommunication among DSA officials.

“One of the problems is that we deal with agencies that have a number of people involved in projects and even within the same office one person doesn’t know what the next person does,” Beard said. “So we’ve had this come up as an issue several times. Even though we’ve had permits, it wasn’t always acknowledged within the office. We’re dealing with agencies that are complicated.”

Seeking an explanation, Pescadero residents BJ Burns and his son Bryan Burns, grandfather and father of students in Pescadero schools, brought permitting issues, both former and current in front of school board officials at a meeting Thursday.

The Burnses’ emotions flared as they presented their case against Croswhite and Beard to the board, handing over documentation of what they say is botched permit processes from summer construction. They claim it is evidence of conscious negligence in obtaining proper building permits from state and county agencies.

“(There are) no building permits but they represent to the public that they do have everything in order,” Bryan Burns said.

Board members seemed overwhelmed by the Burnses’ paperwork, outrage and allegations against Croswhite and Beard, and said they needed time to review the information before responding to the accusations.

“At this point, because of what the Burnses brought up, I’ll be meeting with both our project manager and the superintendent at the end of the week and we’ll go through the notes and the documents and reconcile and figure out what documents are attached to what issues,” School Board President Ed Sawyer said. “We’ll go through and pull the permits and contact notes and address (them) and then respond in writing to BJ Burns and his son Bryan. Until we do that, I really can’t say much more on (the matter) other than that we want to make sure that we’re transparent.”

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