SBHS trustees OK lease-leaseback for tennis courts

San Benito's Jessica Kirschmann, seen here hitting the ball during a drill at practice on August 28, recorded a straight-sets victory over Kiely Reyes of North Salinas on Sept. 11.

San Benito High School trustees voted 4-1 in favor of approving a roughly $2.6 million lease-leaseback agreement for tennis courts and a new parking lot with some qualifications. Trustee Evelyn Muro cast the lone dissenting vote at the regular board meeting last week.
Trustee Steve Delay motioned to approve the contract with provisions that there would be negotiations to possibly scale down the price on the asphalt, lighting and other items. Muro voted against it saying that she didn’t think a few weeks was too much to ask to determine specifics of the contract.
The agreement involves a lease-leaseback agreement where the district leases land to a construction company for a small amount—a minimum of $1, according to state education code—while the developer constructs a building on the site and then the company leases the property back to the district for a given amount of time. The annual interest rate of this agreement is 3.25 percent, according to background information in the agenda packet.
The lease-leaseback process came under criticism locally in recent months when the San Benito County Grand Jury recommended the San Benito High School District reexamine their use of the arrangements—which forgo the public bidding process—for construction projects. Earlier this year, a court case also called into question the Fresno Unified School District’s use of a lease-leaseback arrangement, according to media outlets.
Brad Fannin, a project manager for Blach Construction, pushed for a decision on the agreement soon—within a few weeks at the latest—to prevent issues with the rainy season.
Trustees discussed the $172,419 budgeted for landscaping; the $241,754 for electrical costs, including lighting for the parking lot and tennis courts; and the question of how the cost of lighting of those tennis courts might be split with city or county partners.
The value engineering opportunities for this project included choices such as eliminating a walkway or possibly using a thinner section of asphalt as a base for the tennis courts though, Fannin said, “whether or not you want to do that [with the tennis courts], I don’t know.”
“Knowing that we’re over a earthquake fault, why on God’s green earth would we go thinner on a tennis court?” said Superintendent John Perales. “I just think that’s the absolute worst thing to do.”
Joe Vela, with AEDIS Architecture & Planning, added that the tennis courts would crack soon because of the campus’ position relative to the faultline.
“So my question is, if we know it’s going to crack, is it a waste of our money to put them there?” Trustee Steve Delay said.
Vela suggested they work with the grading subcontractor and geotechnical engineer and get everyone involved in understanding the ramifications of putting a thinner asphalt slab under the tennis courts.
During the same meeting, Superintendent John Perales asked for a breakdown of the cost to install each court so he could approach the county and city for help funding the project.
Trustees also discussed possible lighting options for the tennis courts and learned that the price of adding lights to the courts after they were complete would not be significantly more. Vela asked if the board needed to light all seven courts or if they could perhaps pare back to five.
Trustee Steve Delay noted it stays light late now and suggested building the courts but waiting on lights so that the district could approach community members and ask for help funding that addition.
“There will be absolutely no reason for them to contribute anything when we’ve already done it,” added Trustee Evelyn Muro.

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