Some School Bells Also Toll for Ill Septic Tanks
• District Takes Emergency Action
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
Sept. 9 was the first day of the new school year, and as Malibu’s public school students returned to class, the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District is racing to repair ailing and unsafe septic system facilities at two area campuses.
At its Aug. 19 meeting, the board of education passed an emergency resolution that “allowed public bidding without advertising and further allowed staff to enter into a contract with the low bidder,” for two problem systems—one at Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School and one at Malibu High School.
The process usually requires that the bid request be published in the local media to allow for the maximum number of bids. However, because the situation at both locations constitutes what the resolution calls an emergency condition, immediate repairs are required “to permit the continuance of existing school classes or to avoid danger to life and property,” the resolution states.
According to the district, investigations have revealed that the on-site wastewater treatment system at Pt. Dume Elementary School is “inoperable, almost to the point of being filled to capacity, causing a potential overflow problem. In addition, the tank ceiling is collapsing.” At MHS, the top of the tank in a septic system located under the basketball courts is also in danger of collapse.
Bids for the project were due Aug. 20, the day after the resolution passed. The staff report states that “District staff provided a job walk and publicly bid the project [but] no bids were received due to the very quick turnaround time for bid submittals.”
A 24-hour extension on the deadline resulted in bids from two contractors. However, the first company was described as “non-responsive,” and the second apparently failed to obtain bonding. The staff report states that the district then contacted a bonded general contractor, Los Angeles-based Jenn-Matt, Inc., to provide the scope of work for the project. Jenn-Matt has provided services to the district in the past, most recently in 2008, when the firm was hired to renovate the organ chamber at Barnum Hall on the campus of Santa Monica High School. The repairs are anticipated to cost $172,755, up from the initial estimated cost of $148,460. They will be financed by deferred maintenance funds.
Three other Malibu septic system issues were also on the agenda for the Sept. 3 board of education.
Staff recommended that the board contract with the consultant firm Topanga Underground for “additional septic system investigation services at Malibu High School for the Measure BB program in the amount of $22,000, for a total contract amount of $383,686.”
Topanga Underground also received a contract for “additional septic system investigation services at Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School for the Measure BB program in the amount of $18,000.” The company will oversee “additional monitoring services for water flow usage and effluent demand at the site while school is in session.” Monitoring will also continue during winter break.
Topanga Underground will continue to provide similar services at Webster Elementary, which was one of numerous Civic Center area properties cited by the Regional Water Quality and Control Board earlier this year. Staff recommended that the board approve an additional $14,000 for ongoing septic system investigation at Webster, including monitoring water flow usage at the site while children are present.
A district representative told the Malibu Surfside News that the district takes its water quality responsibilities seriously and that staff is taking a proactive approach to dealing with the issue.