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SAN BENITO — After reviewing surveys, the San Benito school district’s new board of trustees is holding off on lifting a three-month shutdown of a $40 million bond-funded construction project while the contractor works with an architect to determine whether the buildings’ foundations require any repair.
Based on findings, school board member Rudy Corona, the district’s building committee chairman, said the past administration had misled trustees regarding the condition of the performing arts theater building’s foundation.
On July 7, Corona held a teleconference with ROFA Architects, the project’s manager, San Antonio-based contractor Davila Construction, Geopiers Inc., engineer Randy Lackner and board attorney Tony Torres.
Meanwhile, the district hired a company to conduct a third survey, whose findings where compared with those of previous surveys into two buildings’ foundations’ alignment with supports known as geopiers, or deeply-anchored 2-foot-wide rock columns.
“We’ve hired additional surveyors to cross-check,” school board President Orlando Lopez said in an interview. “We’ve added more eyes.”
Now, the project stands about six months behind schedule.
About three months ago, district officials halted San Benito’s biggest construction project aimed at building its first performing arts theater and aquatics center after Mike Alex, the architect serving as the project’s manager, questioned whether some geopiers were not aligned with the foundations’ targets.
About 1,700 geopiers have been installed beneath each building’s foundation, Tony Vargas, Davila Construction’s senior project manager, said in an earlier interview.
“The safety of the kids is the priority,” Lopez said. “My main goal is to make sure these buildings are built safe and sound.”
Performing arts theater findings
During its review of survey findings, the construction team has found “very minimal discrepancy” in the alignment of the performing arts theater building’s foundation with its geopiers, Lopez said.
For weeks, the district’s past administration had claimed the building’s foundations and geopiers may be significantly misaligned.
“We continue to be encouraged by the pier locations on the performing arts center, which has very few misaligned piers,” Corona said. “Originally, the board was led to believe there were major issues with the misalignment, which is not the case.”
Aquatics center building under review
In reviewing survey findings, the construction team found “some questionable geopiers” along the aquatic center building’s foundation, Lopez said.
Now, district officials are inspecting more geopiers along the building’s foundation, Corona said.
“The natatorium has also been evaluated and the SBCISD is locating additional piers to be surveyed and analyzed and the building committee will develop a plan to move forward with both the (performing arts center’s building) and the natatorium.”
Next week, the construction team is expected to determine whether the buildings’ foundations require any repairs.
“We’re hoping they’ll have some kind of remedy by next week,” Corona said.
Project delay unclear
At this time, it’s unclear whether any repairs could continue to delay district officials’ decision to jump-start construction.
“My main concern is the delay,” Lopez said. “The taxpayers voted for this. It’s very frustrating, as a parent, to see the delays.”
Two months after voters swept the new school board into office, shifting the panel’s balance of power, Corona vowed to keep taxpayers updated on the district’s biggest construction project.
“I’m committed to relaying as much information as possible so everybody knows the status of these buildings,” he said. “We’re trying to keep everyone informed as to what’s going on.”
In 2018, Lopez helped a previous administration push for a $40 million bond issue to fund construction of the $21.3 million performing arts theater, the $8.8 million aquatics center and a $5.7 million indoor practice field, which has been completed.
In an election, 54% of voters passed the bond issue.
In October 2021, Davila Construction launched the project to build the performing arts theater and aquatics center.