Friday, September 16, 2011

Board tables auditorium remodel plan

Proposed cost is 75 percent higher than original levy allocation

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County school board wasn't ready to make a decision Tuesday on a proposal to remodel the auditorium at the Community Campus in Hailey that is 75 percent higher than an original allocation.

Instead of costing $880,000, as allocated in a 10-year $59.8 million plant facilities levy approved by the electorate in 2009, a design/build team and an auditorium advisory committee brought the board a proposal that would cost the Blaine County School District $1.54 million.

The purpose of the original levy allocation was to give the 34-year-old facility a facelift to bring it up to modern standards. The auditorium advisory committee is instead recommending that that facility be remodeled into a high-quality performing arts center.

"I believe that the $880,000 has just become a PR nightmare," said Trustee Paul Bates. "That original number never was a realistic number. This auditorium never had one iota of quality built into it. We're essentially adding the quality that is needed to make it into a theater."

Bates, Board Chairman Steve Guthrie and Trustee Shawn Bennion said they were ready to vote on the proposal Tuesday, but yielded to the recommendations of Trustees Don Nurge and Kathryn Graves to delay until they had more time to consider the proposal and hear what the public has to say.

The board will consider the proposal again at a special school board meeting scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19, at the district office.

The $1.54 million proposal is also nearly $270,000 higher than a $1.27 million preliminary target budget approved by the school board in May.

Greg Strong, a Sawtooth Construction project manager and a member of the design/build team, explained to the board that the additional cost is mainly due to electrical needs. He said that when the target budget was approved the design was still conceptual and hadn't been refined as to actual costs.

The Community Campus building that includes the auditorium used to be the main structure of Wood River High School. A new high school was built but the district still owns the old high school building.

If approved, the auditorium would be remodeled into a performing arts center that would be used by student, drama, dance, choir and band groups. It would also be available to community performing arts organizations. Improvements would include new carpet and seats, a lobby area, catwalks for access to lighting systems, an orchestra pit, improved stage access, makeup and dressing rooms and new sound and lighting systems.

"We've worked on this pretty long and hard," Strong said. "To keep the scope and the amenities of the theater as proposed, it's going to take this amount of money."

District Business Manager Mike Chatterton said that the extra money could be taken from a $700,000 reserve fund left over from an older paid-off construction bond.

Trustee Nurge suggested instead that the district consider using plant facilities levy funds if money could be saved in other allocations.

District Superintendent Lonnie Barber said using other levy funds is possible, but "it's not as easy as it sounds."

"You guys got to understand that I received this on Friday afternoon and this is Tuesday," Nurge said. "I don't think its fair to the public either that we went for the same scope of work from $1.27 to $1.54 without allowing a little time."

Terry Smith:

More meetings

The Blaine County School District board of trustees will hold a special meeting on Monday to consider a proposed $1.54 million remodel of the auditorium at the district-owned Community Campus in Hailey. The board will also hear a proposal from district Business Manager Mike Chatterton to borrow an additional $6.23 million on future revenues from a 10-year $59.8 million plant facilities levy approved by Blaine County voters in 2009. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. at the district office at 118 West Bullion St. in Hailey.

The board has also scheduled a work session at the district office starting at noon on Thursday, Sept. 29.

Furthermore, the board has rescheduled its regular October meeting from Oct. 11 to Oct. 18. District Communications Director Heather Crocker said the meeting date was changed to the third Tuesday of the month because both Superintendent Lonnie Barber and Assistant Superintendent John Blackman will be out of town attending professional development conferences. That meeting will start at 6 p.m.

The public is welcome to attend all three meetings.

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