COM's New Maintenance and Operations Facility

January 6th, 2020 - 12:50pm

As you may know, the Marin Community College District (MCCD) is currently constructing a new maintenance and operations facility. Recently, a variety of concerns have been raised about the project—some of which have been based on inaccurate information and misconceptions. Some have even questioned whether the District has acted in a manner counter to being a good neighbor. I would like to take this opportunity to address those concerns and provide clarity as to the project’s scope and purpose. 

Construction started in May 2019 and is projected to be complete by the end of April 2020. The project is tucked behind the Diamond Physical Education Center on the site of the former softball fields. It is also located near, not pressed up against, Grant Grover and Kent Middle schools. 

The project will cost $15,400,000 and will include two buildings totaling 19,904 square feet of offices, shops, storage, equipment, and supplies to support maintenance and operations of all buildings and grounds for the Kentfield and Indian Valley Campuses. 

As the existing maintenance and operations building located on Kent Avenue has outlived its useful life, the new facility will take its place and will also replace a dilapidated 3,300 square-foot structure adjacent to Grant Grover school used to store gardening tools and supplies. Once the District has taken occupancy of the new maintenance and operations facility, the old facility will be used for swing space until the completion of the Measure B program. At that time, it will be demolished. 

Contrary to the assertion that MCCD officials failed to do their environmental due diligence, during the project’s planning phase, the District hired Rincon Consultants, Inc., a highly respected Bay Area environmental consulting firm which has been in business for over 25 years. Rincon was hired to conduct an environmental analysis for the maintenance and operations project. Their report concluded that the project met all criteria for a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Categorical Exemption and was thus eligible for a Section 15061(b)(3) exemption. 

Accordingly, the MCCD Board of Trustees took action on April 16, 2019, to certify the exemption. Nothing was ever done in secrecy as this action was appropriately agendized and voted upon in open session. Further, all Measure B projects, including the new maintenance and operations facility, are reviewed quarterly by the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee as required by Proposition 39.  

As a community college district, College of Marin very much values its place and relationships within the community and endeavors to keep the best interest of both the college and our neighbors at the forefront of actions taken. We strive to be good neighbors, and more often than not have been able to work together with residents to solve the issues that inevitably arise from campus projects. 

Communication is always a high priority in our work, and MCCD has made sincere efforts to keep the lines of communication open. Needless to say, notification that the Kentfield School District (KSD) had filed a lawsuit against the District on October 30, 2019, was unexpected. This notification came without any previous expression to me of KSD’s discontent with the project’s scope or progress. Any concerns raised by KSD staff about the project and related construction prior to the lawsuit filing were consistently addressed by MCCD staff in a collaborative and expeditious manner. 

Leadership of the two districts met in early November. Based on that meeting, MCCD offered a proposal to KSD with resolutions addressing the claims and related concerns. Both parties have agreed to meet early this year, and I am eager to return to the discussion. MCCD remains committed to working collaboratively with KSD to resolve their concerns about the project. 
One aspect of the project which has been grossly misconstrued relates to how the District plans to handle its refuse. The District currently has traditional refuse containers located in five different areas on the Kentfield Campus. The containers are emptied once per week. 

A highly sophisticated refuse compactor will be housed in one of the bays of the new building. The compactor is sealed and will only be opened in the evening when custodians transfer refuse brought from areas of campus to the compactor and when Marin Sanitary Service makes its pick up early in the morning. The compactor is also equipped with an ozone generator which is used to deodorize, disinfect, kill, or remove dangerous or irritating airborne particles.

It should also be noted that discarded food items from the cafeteria are disposed of as a part of Marin Sanitary’s Food 2 Energy program. Discarded food can be a major source of odors if not handled appropriately. Further, it should be noted that the distance from the District’s refuse compactor to the closest KSD classroom is roughly the same distance as KSD’s open-air refuse container is to KSD classrooms. 

The District maintains a fleet of 20 pick-up trucks, vans, and smaller vehicles between the two campuses. Of that fleet, only two trucks are on the larger side and are fueled by clean diesel engines. The District maintains a no-idle policy for fleet vehicles and delivery trucks to minimize air pollution. 

Despite what has been asserted, the District does not use pesticides or routinely store other hazardous waste. The District does store bad fluorescent light tubes and ballasts until they can be properly disposed of. Anything combustible, such as non-water-based paints, are kept in small amounts and secured in a fireproof safety cabinet for flammables. Further, what small amounts of fuel are stored on-site are also secured in a fireproof safety cabinet. The District adheres to all safety precautions and guidelines as required by county, state, and federal jurisdictions.    

Hopefully, this provides clarification on concerns related to the new maintenance and operations facility. As construction at the Kentfield and Indian Valley Campuses continues, the District remains committed to being good stewards of the funds entrusted to us by taxpayers. Moving forward, I am also committed to improving communication with the community about important matters related to the College, including Measure B construction projects.

David Wain Coon, Ed.D.