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Shoddy roofs to cost millions
September 19, 2009, 08:18 PM By Heather Murtagh

New roofs will be needed on three local high schools after being built using voter-approved bond money without outlets for runoff water meaning an estimated $14 million replacement bill unless plans are coupled with the installation of solar panels, thus lowering the cost to $4 million, district officials said this week.

Flat roofs built at Aragon, Mills and Hillsdale high schools using Measure D funds, a $137.5 million bond measure approved in 2000, did not allow for runoff water. Pooling water diminished the life expectancy of the roofs and is prompting the need to redo the roofs in less than 10 years. Such a project is estimated to cost roughly $14 million. At the same time, the district is considering solar panels, which could present an interesting solution. Solar panels would require roof improvements anyway. Of the proposed $30 million solar project, unexpected roof costs would be roughly $4 million.

"It’s an issue we need to examine,” said Superintendent Scott Laurence. "We need to work on this issue in an appropriate manner.”

In the meantime, Laurence said the roofs are structurally sound and he was confident problems would be resolved.

Trustee Stephen Rogers noted the district needed to look into design issues and how such a problem came to be, then decide how to approach the issue.

Construction Manager Todd Lee, of Greystone West, said water pooled on the roofs because no drains were installed which would cause the roofs to fail prematurely.

Contractors and architects who worked on the project were contacted, said Laurence. How to move forward legally still has yet to be determined. Minor roof repairs were done when needed, but the roofs are safe, he said.

Some of the roof areas were old or scheduled to be renovated using Measure M, a $298 million bond measure approved in 2006, said Mark Quattrocchi, principal at Quattrocchi Kwok Architects which helped do the assessment for solar panels for the district. Such was the case for Burlingame and portions of Mills.

As such, Lee did not include the cost of updating those properties in the rough estimates. On Thursday, the district held a study session in which the board enthusiastically supported continued study of adding solar panels on roofs.

Currently, the four-school proposal includes the three schools that have roof issues. The roofs are deteriorating faster than originally anticipated. Basically, a roof that may only last for 10 years would not be an ideal foundation for a multi-million dollar investment like solar panels that last for 25 years, said Lee.

This is not the first issue to arise related to Measure D.

The $137.5 million bond measure was used for modernization at the district’s six school sites. Completion of the projects came with a number of problems including three different loans, lawsuits and unpredicted costs resulting in an additional $80 million consolidation loan.

Many construction problems also arose as a result of Measure D projects. Leaky windows at San Mateo High School, for example, resulted in a major mold problem that couldn’t be fixed using quick-seal fixes.

More recently, the district had to fix air conditioning issues at the three campuses. At Aragon, the school had a chiller unit but no pipes. Hillsdale had the opposite — pipes but no chiller unit. And, Mills has neither. The problem at Mills was compounded by the addition of skylights in interior classroom. The skylights, which could not be darkened, not only heated the room but was known to create sunburns on students and prevent teachers from turning down the lights for presentations.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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