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Sunday, Sep. 25, 2016

SL auditorium committee skims plans, reduces price

Friday, October 12, 2012

Superintendent Carl Turner led the most recent auditorium committee meeting, in cost-cutting mode. Behind him are some of the conceptual drawings.
For a year, a group of dedicated community members have been meeting regularly to discuss the wants and needs for a future auditorium/performing arts center in Storm Lake.

The auditorium committee was called together again on Monday - this time not to conceptualize a performing arts facility, but to rehash their ideas and look for ways to cut the costs of a future auditorium.

While several locations have been discussed as to the best spot for an auditorium to be constructed, it was decided early in the process that the ideal location would be at the high school campus where students could get the most benefit.

Out of the earlier planning meetings it was agreed there are other needs that need addressing at the high school. A renovation study and facility evaluation on the high school were completed in July and several meetings have been held with the main discussion turning to the renovation plan.

Conceptual drawings have been presented by architects I&S Group of both the auditorium and the renovation project at the high school and revised conceptual drawings have been presented.

Estimated costs for the auditorium, with the needs and wants of the committee members, came up to $13 million; renovation costs at the high school have been estimated at an additional $21 million.

Trimming needs to take place to bring the two projects down to about $17.5 million.

The district's debt limit is $21 million but it is important to keep a few million available for other situations that may come up at the other buildings, officials say Voters will be asked to support the projects in December.

"We can't build a $30 million project," said Superintendent Carl Turner, "but if the voters will give it to us, we can do some great stuff for $17.5 million."

"Some districts are building $4-$6 million auditoriums..." Turner said.

There were five areas that the auditorium committee agreed to cut: (going from least important to most important)

* Black box (a smaller performing space.)Though this was a definite want for the auditorium committee during their planning stages, it was decided this is one area that could be cut but could be added to the auditorium in the future if the funds become available. Cost savings - $600,000.

* Redesign the front including cutting back on the amount of glass. Cost savings - $400,000.

* Orchestra pit. There were many questions on whether this area should be cut and what opportunities students would lose without the availability of it. Cost savings - $300,000.

* Fly space (which allows easier movement of scene backgrounds and other aesthetic elements). Cost savings - $300,000.

* Number of seats. Initially, a balcony was included in the plans and seating for 1,000. While that number now looks larger then the committee feels is needed, it is important to maintain enough seats for the entire high school (students and staff) to use the facility on occasions. Currently, that number is at 750, Supt. Turner said. Cost savings - $1 million.

Continuing talks on the auditorium is important, as it was in the plans 50 years ago to build an auditorium at the high school site.

There is much work to be done and the volunteer committee deserves applause for their efforts.

Preparing the public for the December vote is one area they will continue to work and searching for donors to help in the costs is an even larger task they are taking on.

The school board's role with I&S Group is over for this portion of the planning they were hired to complete the study on the high school, hear concerns and ideas from the two committees on what is needed for the renovation and the auditorium, and design conceptual drawings.

The board will be interviewing four firms Oct. 22-23 to move ahead with the district. I&S Group will be one of the four interviewed with the other three being Cannon Moss Brygger & Associates of Sioux City and Spencer, DLR Group of Des Moines and Struxture Architects of Waterloo and Des Moines. The committee says is will be interesting to see if another firm can come up with a "better" price for the projects but also commends I&S GRoup for all the work they have done thus far.

Supt. Turner told the committee it is important to start talking with people in the community and SLHS alum on how they can help bring the auditorium project to a reality.

"We know if we want to do extra features, they will have to come from extra funds."

IT was explained that donations for the auditorium could go through the Storm Lake School District Foundation which would make them tax deductible. (Contact CommUNITY Education at 732-5711 for more information on the Foundation or to make your donation.)

The issue will go to vote Dec. 4. Making sure people understand what is on the ballot is key.

"We have to justify to the public that we're going to use it (auditorium) and not let it sit with the lights off," Supt. Turner said.

Resolutions on the ballot:

* SILO Revenue Purpose Statement - allowing the district to use and borrow against the one-cent sales tax (which will continue to collected regardless of election outcome). This does not affect property taxes. A total of $11,060,000 could be borrowed from this fund.

* Modify voter-approved PPEL from 17 cents to $1.34 per thousand of assessed valuation until 2016. A total of approximately $1.5 million can be borrowed from this property tax increase.

This would affect taxes. An example of the impact, as provided by Piper Jaffray, is that on a home with an assessed value (not market value) of $100,000, would require an annual additional tax of $55.75 (or an addition of $4.65 per month.) Check with Supt. Turner on how to get a copy of Piper Jaffray's information describing what an increase in tax levy means to property owners.

* The third resolution is to extend that PPEL fund by an additional 10 more years to 2026. (A total of $5 million can be borrowed from this property tax increase.)

With the passage of these three resolutions (must pass 50 percent plus one), the $17.5 million would be raised.

Supt. Turner said that in the event that if the resolutions do not pass, the board would realign things and try again. "I don't see the board stopping on this."

He added, "We're doing all this for the kids, making a better place for them. We can't think about what we can't do but what we can do."

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