On Aug. 24, the Hollister School District Board of Trustees at their monthly board meeting unanimously approved a nearly $500,000 change order to Otto Construction, the company hired to build Rancho Santana School.
In order to cover the $497,000 increase on the $42 million project, Hollister School District Superintendent Diego Ochoa suggested depleting a $200,000 contingency fund set aside in the project for unforeseeable expenses as well as taking the remaining $297,000 from the general fund where developer fees are paid. This would bring the Rancho Santana School project to a total cost of $43.1 million.
The project is being funded through Measure V.
According to the invoice provided by Otto, “As a result of the delay to the start of the project because of an incidental take permit issue, the project incurred additional expenses to winterize the site and protect the work being installed at that time of the year. In addition, the project needed additional work on soil, bus shelter sprinklers and kitchen finishes.”
Board president Rob Bernosky was not pleased with the change.
“Okay, my only comment would be, me as an individual board member, is that if there are any changes, that we know about them in advance not in arrears,” Bernosky said. “Again, it’s great that we have the contingency fund but we don’t have one now.”
Robert Ussery, general superintendent representing Otto Construction, responded, “I apologize, it seems like it was in arrears. There were some problems with the way I was communicating. I was making people aware as I was going along through this process, apparently Diego and I have it worked out. I wasn’t making the right people aware. With that said I don’t currently have any change orders.”
The Hollister School District began the 2020-21 school year on Aug. 17 with a distance learning only model and is not currently using any of its school sites for in-person learning.
Before going to a vote, Bernosky reminded Ochoa that depleting the contingency fund for this project before its completion would require any item from now on, no matter how minimal, to be brought to the board for approval.
“You don’t have the ability to spend more money on this unless you have board approval,” Bernosky said. “Do you want to be handcuffed that way, for a $10,000 or $20,000 item you’d have to bring it to the board for approval?”
Ochoa said he was, given the circumstances.
“Based on the nearing completion of the project I’m okay with it,” Ochoa said. “If this were to happen six months ago, I wouldn’t be okay with it.”
BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website that reports on San Benito County. Our team is working around the clock during this time when accurate information is essential. It is expensive to produce local news and community support is what keeps the news flowing. Please consider supporting BenitoLink, San Benito County’s news.