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Church, Archeologists Still at Odds Over Dig at School Site


VENTURA — Church officials and the archeologists digging behind the historic San Buenaventura Mission remained at odds Friday about how much excavation needs to be done on a site where a new school is to be built, city officials said Friday.

"There is a difference of opinion, not about whether it [the excavation] needs to be done, but about how long, by whom and at what cost," said Tom Figg, the city's planning and redevelopment manager.

The mission has undertaken a $5.5-million expansion of the aging Holy Cross School, part of which will rest atop the foundations of shops and living quarters of the mission--a nationally registered historic site.

By law, a Native American consultant must be present, and archeologists must be on hand to investigate before construction can begin.

On Wednesday, the archeologists excavating the site stopped work, saying that the mission's pastor, Msgr. Patrick O'Brien, was not allowing them to do their job in a professional manner.

Members of the nine-person team said O'Brien constantly prodded them to work faster. They also said he was unwilling to pony up the money to pay for full analysis of certain artifacts they had unearthed, such as glass beads, shards of bone and fragments of ancient tile.

O'Brien, however, said earlier this week that he is abiding by state law and that he wants to move forward with building the school. O'Brien could not be reached for comment Friday.

Figg said he can see no evidence, so far, that the mission has done anything wrong, and that the matter is a contractual one. As such, the city can only act as a facilitator between the two parties.

"We need to bring the team back together," Figg said. "But it doesn't need to be the same archeologist. It doesn't necessarily have to be done by Dr. Stickle."

Gary Stickle, who runs a private Los Angeles-based archeology firm, is the director of the dig.

Figg added that the city has not stopped the dig but that it would not grant a building permit to the mission until there is documentation of all the artifacts that are unearthed.

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