The Board of Education approved plans to repair and upgrade PUSD facilities during the summer of 2024. The projects — primarily HVAC and roof replacements — will be paid for by a grant from the State School Facilities Program.
Other projects, such as bathroom, classroom, and common area upgrades are funded by a “Routine Restricted Maintenance Account”. The state requires 3% of district expenditures be set aside every year from the General Fund for facilities maintenance. Of the approximately $1.5 million, most goes into salaries and benefits for maintenance staff. The rest is available for projects – from $300,000-$500,000 each year. Parent clubs and other donations will fund other items such as playground upgrades and a marquee for the new PHS STEAM building.
Site administrators and facilities staff identify the needs of each site. The list is reviewed by the Facilities Steering Committee (FSC) which then makes suggestions on what projects to prioritize before the list is brought to the board for approval.
Frustration with Witter Field delay boils over
In a project update posted on Nov. 6, the district said the Witter Field renovation project had been pushed back to Monday, Feb. 5, 2024 due to “several factors contributing to the delay along with our contractor being unable to complete critical path tasks such as the D ring foundations and the trench drain installation concurrently.”
The project began in June 2023 and was originally expected to finish by this December. In an update on Sept. 26, Palmer said the completion date for the Witter Field construction project was being pushed back a month from Dec. 1 to Jan. 8, 2024 due to EBMUD work on a 54″ aqueduct that runs under the field.
The renovation delay has upset neighbors impacted by construction traffic and affected high school sports — the athletics department has had to make alternative plans for winter (and possibly spring) sports.
“This has been very challenging project — much more so than the STEAM and theater projects,” said Facilities Director Pete Palmer. He acknowledged the community’s frustration, especially over parking restrictions that were put in place last summer on adjacent streets to the project to allow truck traffic to move through. “I’m hoping that by Thanksgiving we can lift parking restrictions on Palm,” he said. Residents on Palm Drive and portions of Wildwood, Park View, and Winsor Avenues have been most affected by the project, with El Cerrito and Jerome Avenues also impacted at times.
School board member Cory Smegal said she had lost faith in the contractor’s ability to meet deadlines. “I don’t believe this date is realistic and frankly neighbors don’t either,” said Smegal. Weekly updates from the district nothwithstanding, Smegal said, the neighbors have lost trust. Bothman Construction is the Witter Field contractor.
“The [construction schedule] chart seems like a fantasy to me,” she said.” I would love it if it comes to pass, but we need to take responsibility for the fact that this is going on longer than we thought.”
“I don’t think it’s pie in the sky,” said Palmer referring to the new Feb. date. “We’re in the home stretch. I have confidence we can finish the first week of February even with torrential rains.”
You can get project updates HERE.
Click here to see the full slideshow of the Witter Field Renovation project.