UPDATE: New Columbia high school proceeds as road agreement finalized

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 | 7:43 p.m. CDT; updated 1:44 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 30, 2010

This article has been clarified to reflect that the district is researching the possibility of using either a performance bond or an irrevocable letter of credit.

COLUMBIA — Boone County Commissioner Skip Elkin said Columbia Public Schools "should be moving dirt" on a new high school in the next few weeks now that key documents are in the works.

The district has set the groundbreaking for the northeast Columbia school for 4 p.m. July 15. To start the work, the district needs a land disturbance permit, and Elkin said that permit is expected to be issued in coming weeks.

Land disturbance permits deal with water quality and ensure that proper precautions are taken to handle stormwater runoff and soil erosion. These measures must be in effect during construction and after work is completed, Elkin said.

Another document, known as the St. Charles Road Development Agreement, needed approval before the land disturbance permit can be issued. The agreement between the district and the St. Charles Development Co. finalizes the plans for an auxiliary, or access, road west of the high school. No road is there now. The agreement also addressed the purchase of another 4.2 acreage for stormwater runoff detention ponds.

At a special meeting Tuesday, the Columbia School Board approved signing the agreement, though the official signing will occur after board President Jan Mees returns from vacation next week.

The St. Charles Development Co. is a group of owners who sold the initial 80 acres north of St. Charles Road to the school district for the new high school and who still own much property directly to the west and north.

"The county will accept it as a development agreement between the two property owners," said David Bennett, vice president of engineering at Engineering Surveys and Services, a private consulting service working with the district.

Although Elkin, whose District II includes the new high school location, is aware of the agreement, he has been more focused on finalizing a legal document that would act as an insurance policy to ensure that “funds have been set aside in case the work doesn’t get done,” Elkin said. The county requires this sort of insurance policy for any sort of real estate development.

Linda Quinley, chief financial officer for the district, is currently researching whether a performance bond or an irrevocable letter of credit is the best type of document for the district to use.

“They both provide the county with the same amount of protection,” Quinley said. The difference between the two documents is that a letter of credit would come from the district’s bank, Landmark, and the performance bond would be issued by an insurance company.

Meanwhile, under the St. Charles Road Development Agreement, the district will pay $11,250 for the additional land needed for the detention pond. Land for the pond was not originally included in the building plans because stormwater runoff requirements from the state and then from the county changed, board vice president Tom Rose said.

The access road will link the high school to St. Charles Road. Early plans didn't include it, but after examining traffic reports for the area, the district decided on a stoplight and the access road to keep buses and other school traffic from turning directly onto a busy roadway.

After plans were drawn up to include the road, the county requested that it be moved 800 feet west. The  district will pay for building the road, an estimated $2.9 million. The county will maintain the road.

The St. Charles Road Development Co. donated the right of way for the school to build the road, said Bob Pugh, one of the four partners in the company. Pugh called the road "mutually beneficial" and said his development company would eventually continue the road to the northern property line.

This will be Columbia's fourth public high school, along with Hickman, Rock Bridge and Douglass high schools. Construction is estimated to cost $75 million, and Rose said it is expected to open for fall 2013. 

The board will meet on July 15 to consider bids on construction.


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