The company says it was waiting for the go-ahead on demolition; Lennar says the contractor did not have a long-term contract.
By ELYSSE JAMES STAFF WRITER
Recycled Materials Co. has left the El Toro base after waiting a year to continue demolition of the runways.
The situation is unusual, said Mark Wachal, senior project manager for company’s El Toro demolition, but the company is still willing to work with Lennar and the Great Park Corp. because it believes in the sustainability goals of the Great Park. He said the company never got the goahead to continue demolition.
We were there so long, he said, because we thought the project would resume work as of a year ago.
Recycled Materials Co. in 2002 went through an extensive qualification and interview process with the city and the Great Park – but that was before the Great Park Corp. signed an agreement with Lennar’s Heritage Fields to handle the contract at no cost to the Great Park Corp.
Carol Wold, spokeswoman for Lennar, said that Recycled Materials Co. was doing work under a short-term service contract to demolish the runway at the balloon site but that there has never been a longterm contract. She said Lennar asked for a “time-out” to create a phased-in plan to determine the need for concrete at the site so that it wouldn’t be stockpiled at the Great Park.
When Lennar decides to demolish the runways, Wold said Lennar will consider Recycled Materials Co., among other companies.
We feel that they’ve made a commitment to us, and we made a commitment to them and the project, Wachal said. He said it’s unfortunate that things slowed down in the middle of the startup process.
The company moved from Colorado to Irvine to work on the Great Park and worked for three weeks on the balloon attraction site in April and early May 2007, Wachal said. Runway removals for other areas of the old El Toro Marine base started in December 2006 and stopped in January 2007. The company was “optimistically waiting” until January 2008, when it moved back to Colorado.
During that year, Recycled Materials Co. was waiting for the project to start back up via the optimism that permits were just around the corner, Wachal said.
There is still one recycling machine stored at the Great Park site, waiting to be called into use. The pavement that was removed has not been recycled and is stored at the Great Park. Removal of all the concrete at the base will take three to four years, Wachal said.
The company had expected to be in full production by summer 2007. The machines were imported from Colorado and some were imported with new technology and equipment from Austria.
We do expect to come back because we’re the contractor selected by the city and the Great Park staff, Wachal said.
Great Park Board member Christina Shea said the board was not told that Recycled Materials Co. had left. The runway contract, she said, was supposed to be a huge symbolic demonstration to the county of Orange that no airplanes would ever land on these runways again. Now anybody can land there, she said, because the runways have never been destroyed.
Glen Worthington, manager of planning for the Great Park, said that Lennar’s Heritage Fields would act as the Great Park’s agent to get the runway removed at no cost to the Great Park Corp. but the contract will be written by both the Great Park Corp. and Lennar.
Worthington said Recycled Materials Co. heading home will not affect production at the Great Park because the “preview park” around the balloon does not have runway that needs to be demolished. The runway that was at the balloon site was removed in 2007.
From the Los Angeles Times
Runway work grounded at Great Park site
The contractor hired to tear up and recycle concrete at the former El Toro Marine base has taken off in a dispute with Lennar Corp.
By William Heisel and Tony Barboza
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
February 4, 2008
In the latest setback in the construction of Orange County's Great Park, demolition crews that were supposed to tear up 600 acres of runways at the former El Toro Marine Corps base have gone home with little work completed.
Recycled Materials Co. of Colorado caught city officials off guard last month by sending a terse memo announcing it was pulling up stakes from what the company's senior project manager called "the World's Largest Recycle Project."
Lennar Corp., which is building the Great Park in conjunction with the city of Irvine, had been paying Recycled Materials for the demolition, but the housing giant has been hit hard the past year by falling home sales.
Mark Wachal, Recycled Materials' senior project manager for the Great Park, said the company completed about 2% of the runway demolition in December 2006 but had not done much since. Work had been delayed by permit requirements and an inability to secure a long-term contract with Lennar.
"We kept thinking the beginning of the project was just around the corner, the next two weeks, the next two weeks, and finally we just had to give up on it," Wachal said. "When they're ready to start working again, we hope they call us."
Starting in the early 1990s with the first rumors that the El Toro base would be closed, politicians and citizen activists spent an estimated $100 million in advertising and legal fees arguing whether the 4,700-acre base should become an airport.
The base closed in 1999. Four elections and many lawsuits later, the battle appeared to be over when Lennar bought the bulk of the base from the federal government for about $650 million. It hired Recycled Materials in June 2005.
In May 2006, Recycled Materials broke up a few feet of runway to great fanfare, and local officials were given chunks of concrete to commemorate the occasion.
The concrete was supposed to be used for the park's paths, buildings and even a planned waterfall. But the demolition work never took off.
The demolition was supposed to be completed in five years, with homes going up for sale this year and a park grand opening slated for next year. The only project that has been completed is a balloon ride and visitors center.
Lennar's Carol Wold, vice president of community affairs for the company's Heritage Fields arm, said the housing slump has prompted the company to reconsider when and where to build the Great Park homes. It does not have an estimated date for the demolition work to resume, she said.
The Great Park Corp. has spent about $49 million designing the park and establishing the balloon ride. To build much of the rest of the park, officials are depending on taxes from homes Lennar will build. Because of the delay, the park won't receive that money as soon at it expected.
The city has an incentive to keep the runways intact. It makes about $2 million each year from a company that stores recreational vehicles on the runways and car companies that pay to test-drive cars there.
Supporters of the airport idea have been watching the slow pace of the Great Park a little wistfully, knowing that those runways could be used for more than 100 flights a day.
"We knew that Orange County needed an airport, not another park, and now we're not going to have either," said Barbara Lichman, executive director of the Airport Working Group.