CONCORD -- With the threat of a lawsuit looming over planned stadium lights that weren't disclosed in a Mt. Diablo school bond measure, Ygnacio Valley High neighbors are asking trustees to delay a vote Wednesday on the field upgrades.
"Acknowledging that all parties want to do the right thing, then let's move to accomplish that," the group wrote in a Monday letter to the board. "The last thing that anyone wants is litigation since the only winners then are the attorneys."
In August, San Diego attorney Craig Sherman sent a letter to the Mt. Diablo school board on behalf of the neighborhood group, expressing disappointment in the rushed manner that the bond measure project list was developed.
Sherman, who successfully sued the San Diego school district for a similar issue, alleged that Mt. Diablo is not using the bond money as voters were told it would.
The district appears to be "conjuring up flamboyant and over-the-top school facility projects different from the truly needed and disclosed science centers and other safety, renovation, and repairs promised and obligated by the original and voted-on 2010 Measure C and Proposition 39 project list," Sherman said in his letter to the board.
Mt. Diablo's use of 2010 Measure C bond funds to pay for the Ygnacio Valley field lighting and public address system, and a Northgate High aquatics center, neither of which were explicitly listed on the ballot measure, is similar to the San Diego district's attempt to use bond funds for a field lighting project not disclosed on its ballot measure, he wrote. That project was found by a court in April to be an illegal use of the bond money.
In addition, Sherman challenged the Mt. Diablo district's Environmental Impact Report, saying it incorrectly evaluated the expected number of Ygnacio Valley High field users and the impact on the community from foot and vehicle traffic. Based on his review of the local bond measure, Sherman wrote that he determined "a court would likely find one or more of the district's expenditures impermissible and subject to a permanent injunction and reimbursement ..."
Ygnacio Valley's neighbors have not yet sued. Instead, they want the Mt. Diablo school board to postpone a vote this week and revise the project's environmental report to include a list of possible conditions on field usage, construction and inspection contracts.
District staff came up with a list of conditions after two board members met with the community on Sept. 30, but neighbor Jim MacMillan says the list does not accurately reflect what was discussed at the meeting. He and other neighbors want more time to sit down with district officials and agree on options to be considered, including restricted hours for use of the field, lighting and sound system.
"We're disappointed in the way the district and staff has handled all this," he said Tuesday. "What's being presented to the board is a litany of what the staff wants. I think it's being ramrodded. I think the board is being asked to vote in a confused manner."
The board has already postponed one vote on the project so district staff and two trustees could meet with neighbors and try to come up with a compromise. Board President Cheryl Hansen, said Tuesday that she does not believe it is necessary to postpone the vote again because the district's interim general counsel has reviewed all the documents. She said she couldn't speak for her colleagues.
"Of course, the other side's frustrated, because they want to know if this is going to be addressed," she said. "We tried to get more information in the last few weeks. That's why the process got slowed down. We've tried to be more inclusive of the neighbors."
She agreed the bond language was general, but said the field improvements and aquatic center could be covered by language that said the district intended to "modernize, replace, and repair school facilities."
The Mt. Diablo school board will meet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the district office at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord. More information is available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 4000 or by visiting http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on Oct. 9.