The newly formed La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board got down to business Tuesday night after a transition ceremony and reception, deciding to draft a resolution addressing its concerns with current plans by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works to remove 2.4 million to 4 million cubic yards of sediment from Devil’s Gate Dam over the next seven years.
Talk of a resolution came after a discussion about the potential negative health effects the removal might incur as some 425 trucks a day made their way from the dam to the 210 Foothill Freeway by way of Berkshire Avenue — just yards away from the La Cañada High School campus — largely during school hours. Most of the sediment, the result of the 2009 Station fire, is mud and debris containing particles of ash that may be harmful if inhaled for extended periods of time.
Officials have until Jan. 6 to publicly speak on the project, according to terms of an Environmental Impact Report submitted to the city of Pasadena in October, which is open for public review until that time.
Newly seated board members David Sagal and Kaitzer Puglia suggested the school board might partner its efforts with the La Cañada Flintridge City Council, possibly drafting a joint letter highlighting concerns with the route and removal hours, even while pursuing its own resolution.
“Who else is concerned about this? Who else is out there?” Sagal asked.
The City Council held its own special meeting Dec. 2 to discuss public complaints related to traffic, noise pollution and the possible deleterious effects on local water, but school board members highlighted Tuesday their unique concern about the safety of students.
“There are a lot of issues about whether (the project) needs to go forward and if it needs to go forward as it is,” said new board member Dan Jeffries. “We need to go on record saying we’re concerned about the high school.”
Ellen Multari, seated Tuesday as president of the school board, advised the district reach out to the city but meanwhile begin drafting its own resolution given the fast-approaching deadline.
“If we could get their support that would be great, but I don’t know if we could count on that by Jan. 6,” she said.
La Cañada resident Rody Stephenson agreed, saying in a public comment that the city’s concerns might be too broad to focus on LCUSD’s individual issues.
“You ought to have your own letter,” he suggested.
In addition to drafting resolution language, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette will contact La Cañada Flintridge City Manager Mark Alexander about a possible joint effort.
To continue the resolution process in advance of the January deadline, the La Cañada Unified board will hold a special meeting Tuesday, Dec. 17, at 6 p.m. in the round building of the District Office, 4490 Cornishon Ave, La Cañada.
Also Tuesday night, board members heard a second reading of the district’s first interim budget report from Sinnette, who explained that former Chief Business and Operations Officer Ruben Rojas resigned as of Nov. 30 to accept a cabinet-level position with the governor’s office, consulting on the restructuring of the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank.
Sinnette explained changes made to budgetary assumptions for the next two years, answering questions from the new board members and explaining the history of the budget process in the wake of Gov. Jerry Brown’s new statewide Local Control Funding Formula.
The new board was also updated on the progress of the district’s preparation for Common Core field testing, set to begin this spring, and approved new board policy pertaining to fundraising activities at the school sites and fundraisers conducted by nonprofit organizations affiliated with the district.