PITTSBURG -- Groundbreaking is scheduled Aug. 14 on a new Heights Elementary School, following a vote Wednesday night by school board trustees that clears the way for construction to begin.

On a 4-0 vote, trustees approved a construction agreement for the $28.4 million project, which will be financed by proceeds from Measure L, a school bond approved by voters in 2010, and state matching funds.

The two-story campus is expected to be completed in August 2014. The new school will replace the existing 61-year-old elementary school, which will be torn down to make way for a new sports field. While the new school is being built, students will continue to attend the old school.

Heights Elementary is at the intersection of Seeno Avenue and a street that was formerly West Boulevard, which has since been renamed Alturas Avenue. About 600 students attend the K-5 school.

The agreement approved by trustees is with F&H Construction, one of six contractors who competed to build the new school. F&H came in with lowest bid, with a $28.4 million proposed cost for the lease-lease-back construction agreement.

Under such agreements, a school district will lease out property it owns for a nominal amount, typically $1 a year, to the contractor, who returns the property to the district after the project is completed. Such agreements allow contractors to do their own bid estimates for a project based on consultations with school officials. Advocates contend they help keep construction costs in line with budgeted funds, but critics say the agreements skip the conventional competitive bidding process that could result in lower costs.


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No member of the public or board of trustees spoke in favor or against the agreement at the meeting.

"We are confident that F&H can do the project and will be finished by next August so that it can be occupied. During next summer, demolishment of the old school will take place, and the field should be completed by the end of next year," Chris Gallup, the district's senior project inspector, told trustees.

Gallup estimated the district will save at least $800,000 in construction costs by going with the lease-lease-back process. "We are able to bring it to budget by using value engineering," he said.

Heights Elementary will be the latest of new schools to be built in Pittsburg in the past few years as a result of voter-approved bond measures. They include Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School and Marina Vista Elementary, which were built from the ground up. Pittsburg High School and Black Diamond High School, an alternative school, are new schools that replaced existing schools.

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her at Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.