Less than 24 hours before Tuesday's groundbreaking in Salida, Modesto City Schools officials will ask the Board of Education to approve a builder for Gregori High School.
The nearly $123 million proposed contract with Modesto's Acme Construction Co. Inc. includes construction of school buildings, road improvements, a well and the cleanup of contaminated dirt under a road bordering the campus.
Although groundbreaking is set for Tuesday -- falling on the late Joseph Gregori's birthday -- construction isn't scheduled to begin until Dec. 1. Gregori High was named after Joseph Gregori, the Beyer High School principal who died of a heart attack in 1998.
"This project has been one with many challenges," said Miguel Galvez, the district's director of facilities, development and support. "This is really exciting for us. After all these years, this is the fruit of our labor."
Officials planned to open Gregori at the same time as Enochs High School in Modesto's Village I. Enochs High welcomed freshmen and sophomores last fall, but Gregori High's opening date was pushed back to fall 2010.
Other parts of project later
Construction is set to begin in December, but other parts of the project won't get a green light until next year:
The cleanup of contami- nated dirt beneath Pirrone Road on the southwest corner of the campus won't begin until spring. The district must excavate 9,000 cubic yards of dirt -- enough to fill nearly three Olympic-sized swimming pools -- contaminated by a leaking underground gasoline tank about 30 years ago. The cleanup will cost $2 million, with the state paying half. The cleanup should take about three months. Frustrated district officials casually refer to this part of the project as "The Money Pit," referring to a 1986 Tom Hanks movie about a house that continually requires costly repairs.
Putting in an intersection at Dale Road, widening Stoddard Road and building Pirrone Road should begin next summer, after the district moves utility poles and finishes sewer connections. Those improvements cost about $11 million and are included in the contract with Acme.
Modesto City Schools must acquire parts of 17 properties to widen the roads. Only one property is in escrow, and the district does not know the cost of the rest.
Modesto City Schools is proposing a lease-leaseback construction plan after a first round of traditional bids on the project came in over budget, at $102 million to $107 million for the school buildings alone.
The lease-leaseback method would allow Acme to lease the Gregori property from the school district for $1 per year. The district then would lease the property back from the contractor for a set amount of time and for a fixed price of construction -- $123 million. The district would pay back the cost of the school in monthly payments.
The district would make payments during construction until its resources -- about $108 million for the Acme contract -- are exhausted.
Duane Wolterstorff, Modesto City Schools' manager of fiscal support services, said the district plans to finance about $15 million of the project with Acme. Chief business official Debbe Bailey said Acme also has ideas for saving as much as several million dollars on the project.
Details won't be worked out until the district runs out of money to pay for construction.
Lease-leaseback construction also would allow the district to bypass competitive bidding. Modesto City Schools interviewed three construction companies -- Acme, Sundt Inc. and Turner Construction -- for the project.
Acme completed a $13 million renovation of Modesto High School in June 2006. It also built Beyer High in 1972.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2337.