San Dieguito school district board approves cost of classroom work at Torrey Pines High School

At its Feb. 19 meeting, the San Dieguito Union High School District approved a guaranteed maximum price of $3.1 million from Erickson Hall Construction Company for the construction of general classrooms at Torrey Pines High School. The work is funded through Proposition AA funds.

The decision was not unanimous; the vote was 3-2, with trustees John Salazar and Mo Muir voting against it.

Salazar opposed the contract with Erickson Hall, as it had contributed $15,000 to the district’s Prop AA campaign. Salazar said he had a problem philosophically with the district awarding a contract to a company that had given them a “massive contribution.”

Trustee Amy Herman said she appreciated her fellow trustees’ rationale, but disagreed with the perception that there has been any “pay to play” within the district.

“I believe that our district has always worked in a very ethical way,” Herman said.

Herman said that Erickson Hall has worked with them cooperatively on other projects, bringing projects in on time and under budget.

“They have done an incredible job in the past, and I see no reason to hold back this contract at this time,” agreed trustee Joyce Dalessandro.

Salazar and Muir said they didn’t intend to disparage Erickson Hall or accuse the company of anything. Salazar said he disagrees with the unfair advantage that contractors have over regular taxpayers, and that they have a tremendous amount to gain by contributing.

“It’s nothing against Erickson Hall at all, it’s just protesting the entire school bond concept,” Salazar said.

Superintendent Rick Schmitt said that while he knows there are other school districts that have “played dirty,” that is not the case in San Dieguito. He said the district’s staff is ethical, works hard and had no knowledge of which companies had contributed to the bond effort.

“I’m proud of our team,” Schmitt said. “Led by Eric Dill, they go out of their way to get the best price and the best deal to get it done and on time.”

The district approved a resolution with Erickson Hall at the Feb. 5 board meeting for a total of $15.9 million of improvements at Torrey Pines, including classroom remodels and work on the media center and front entry.

Salazar and Muir also voted against the resolution.

Other companies who donated to the bond campaign were Lionakis ($25,000), Westberg & White ($25,000) and Balfour Beatty ($11,000).

Lionakis did the architecture for Pacific Trails Middle School and the new Earl Warren Middle School, and Balfour Beatty is handling construction for Pacific Trails.


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