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Editor's note: The Register asked Napa Valley College about the issues raised by the author. A response by President Ron Kraft runs on the same page as this letter. and can be found online here.

I have followed developments related to on-campus housing at Napa Valley College through the Napa Valley Register the past two years and have found the college’s process both disappointing and disturbing.

In April 2017, the Register reported that the college put out a Request for Qualifications (RFQ), seeking qualified developers for a campus housing project. (“Napa Valley College seeks partner to plan future housing,” April 29, 2017)

Five months later, in September 2017, the Register reported that Balfour Beatty was the developer working with the college to bring forward a proposal. (“Developer shows strategy to bring housing to Napa Valley College," Sept. 16)

Two years later, in April 2019, a Register article announced that a study, conducted by an independent contractor (The Scion Group) hired by the college, revealed that there was demand for both student and staff housing. The study showed that a student housing project comprised of mixed dormitory-style rooms and apartments was also financially feasible. (“Study shows demand by Napa Valley College students and staff for on-campus housing,” April 13, 2019)

Last month, the Register stated that the Napa Valley College Board approved a pre-development agreement with the Martin Group to bring forward a proposal for student housing by December of this year with a cost to the college of up to $50,000. (“Napa Valley College, development firm to pursue on-campus housing,” Aug. 26).

This chain of events raises many questions.

First, why did the college put out a RFQ and begin seeking qualified developers two years before it conducted a feasibility study? Once the study was completed, why didn’t the college go out for a new RFQ, given the fact that two years had passed and the college had new information to further refine the project?

Second, why did the college change developers, dumping Balfour Beatty and opting for the Martin Group instead? Did the college change its selection criteria, or did it have something to do with the election of Jeff Dodd to the Board in 2018? (Jeff Dodd recused himself from the discussion and vote on student housing at the last Board meeting, because the Martin Group is a client of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass where he works.)

When and how was the board informed of the change of developer? At a board meeting? Which one?

Third, after getting a list of qualified developers why didn’t the college ever issue a Request for Proposals (RFP), soliciting proposals from all qualified developers and choosing the one most aligned with the board’s vision and goals? Why would the college limit itself to only one proposal (whether from Balfour Beatty or the Martin Group), accruing costs of up to $50,000, when it could have received multiple proposals without paying a dime? Will the college feel compelled to accept the Martin Group’s proposal, having already invested tens of thousands of dollars into it and with no point of comparison? Is the college’s process legal? (It certainly isn’t best practice.)

The public has witnessed poor decision-making on the part of the college board in the past, as it has mismanaged past bond monies and bond campaigns. Unfortunately, this process raises questions as to whether this college administration and board can and will develop a student housing project that is in the best interest of students and the college. The public deserves answers.

Sheryl Hayworth

Napa

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