School district addresses Castaic residents’ claims

By Tammy Marashlian
Signal Assistant City Editor
March 5, 2011

A group of concerned Castaic residents claims that the Hart district’s plan to build Castaic high school at the rural Romero Canyon property will amount to a waste of public funds, according to a letter submitted to the district this week.

The William S. Hart Union High School District responded Friday, saying that the school will be built within budget in a timely manner that will be safe for the entire Castaic community.

In recent months, the Hart district has made significant progress on building Castaic high school at Romero Canyon, an undeveloped plot of land owned by local developer Larry Rasmussen.

The 23,000-student school district has spent a decade trying to build a Castaic high school, leaving high school students living in Castaic commuting to Valencia and West Ranch high schools.

Voters in 2008 passed Measure SA, a $300 million construction bond, so that the school could finally be built.
Throughout the process, the group Citizens for Castaic has voiced opposition over the Hart district’s choice to build the school at Romero Canyon.

Amy Minteer, the attorney from the Santa Monica-based law firm Chatten-Brown & Carstens, lays out a series of concerns from Citizens for Castaic about the Hart district’s high school proposal under the subject: “Development of Castaic area high school at Rasmussen-Romero Canyon site would result in waste of public funds.”

“We believe the expense of developing this site has been understated, and we are concerned the school district may not acknowledge the true costs associated with this site until it is too late, in violation of the school district’s duty of fiscal responsibility,” the March 3 letter reads.

The Hart district responded: “We are confident that in this current construction climate, we will deliver a high quality, safe school to Castaic families, under budget, leaving remaining Measure SA funds for other projects identified in this bond measure,” spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said.

Citizens for Castaic also raises concerns that the Hart district is behind on securing the proper easements to build the school.

“It is the school district’s responsibility to ensure that these encumbrances will not prevent development at the Rasmussen-Romero Canyon site before expending any more public funds pursuing development at this site,” the letter reads.

The Hart district said the letter is being taken into consideration.

“We are currently reviewing the 62-page document provided by Citizens (for) Castaic to respond to specific concern. However, we can assure this group and the community that we are thoroughly vetting every aspect of building a school on the preferred Romero site,” Pinsker said.

In preparation of the environmental impact review process for Romero Canyon, the Hart district has scheduled a scoping meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday to gather public input about the project.

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As Smokey the Bear says,
“Only You…can prevent forest fires!”