Change is constant factor with VHS building project

Change is constant factor with VHS building project This image, composed by architects with the help of a computer, demonstrates how Vermillion High School will appear when the building addition and renovation project is complete. This view is from a point northeast of the structure. by M. Jill Sundstrom Residents of the Vermillion school district accepted the fact that change was needed when they voted in favor of a $3.5 million bond issue which would expand the high school building.

Now, as construction plans continue, change once again comes into play.

According to Superintendent Robert Mayer, several alterations have been made in the design of the building.

The new commons, which originally would have been located adjacent to the new auditorium, has been moved to the east-northeast area of the school.

�The architects felt there was a problem in access for garbage collection,� Mayer said. �It would have had to take place in front of the building and that did not make sense. Plus there was a roof line problem and dead area space with the former location. And it actually cost more.�

With the commons move, garbage collection will be easier and �it�s an even better design,� Mayer said. �It�s also less expensive.�

Slight changes have also been made in the auditorium�s design.

�The plan called for a 750-seat auditorium,� Mayer said. �But there was a concern about too many seats for a school our size. We wouldn�t be able to fill it for high school productions and we don�t want our kids playing to ?half a house�.�

The design change will now allow the back seating area to be darkened so that the high school actors wouldn�t have to look out on empty seats when the audience numbers less than a full house.

There will be a total of 721 seats � 281 in the back area and 440 up front. With other productions, such as community theatre, Mayer didn�t think filling the house would be a problem.

�This will be an all-purpose auditorium,� Mayer added. �But we�re working now to make it more theatre-friendly.�

A fly system � a cable system that allows for the above-stage storage of sets � could also be added.

�We originally wanted one (a fly system), but the architects designed the auditorium without it,� Mayer said. �This was a surprise to us and it poses a significant concern because it would cost about $250,000 to add.

�Now that the bond referendum passed without it, the school board decided to put out alternate bids, one with, and one without the system,� he added. �After we found out what it will cost for sure, the board will decide after that whether we can afford it or not.�

DLR Group of Omaha, NE, the architectural firm hired by the Vermillion School Board, admits the omission of the fly system was their fault.

�We regret the fact that this has to be done � it shouldn�t have happened in the first place,� Mayer said. �The high school could probably live without the fly system, but this will be a community facility. If summer stock is revived, then a fly system would definitely be more important.�

A �green room,� which features mirrors on the walls, has also been added to the design of the auditorium area.

�This wasn�t originally planned,� Mayer said, �but after the bond issue passed, the architects started meeting with people who would use the facility and they indicated their desire for a green room in which dance practice can take place. Our swing choir can also rehearse there, as can the cheerleaders.�

Mayer also explained that the kitchen area will be full-service, but some equipment will have to be replaced.

�We had hoped to use what we had, but we won�t be able to,� he said. �The freezer, walk-in cooler and dishwasher will have to be replaced � they�re 35 years old � but we have other funds for that. Their replacement will not be a part of the new building cost.�

The new auxiliary gym design has also changed. It will no longer be a two-story structure.

�We would have needed hoists to move mats for gymnastic practice and we needed an elevator,� Mayer said. �With everything on one floor, those necessities have been eliminated since everything will be on the main floor, but it will not cost more.�

He added that plan changes have created frustrating delays in the projected completion date.

�I�m disappointed that construction will not start this fall like we had hoped,� Mayer said. �But these things take time. We have to be patient.

�We had hoped that the library expansion and commons could be done by the fall of 2000,� he continued. �It�s possible, but not likely. One issue we have with that is we can�t take out the old commons until the new one is built. Once we have a contractor, however, we�ll have a better idea of the timetable.�

He added that the architect has predicted that the new gym could be completed by December of next year.

�That will probably be the only part of the project that will be finished on time. If that�s the case, it would be excellent,� Mayer said. �We�re also thinking that the auditorium could be ready by the spring of 2001.�

Bids for the construction project will be let in early December �and we will award a contract at the same time,� Mayer said. �We should be able to start with construction by March.�

A contract has already been awarded for dirt work in the area of the new gym.

�When we did soil testing, we found that the water table in the gym area is six feet higher than it was when the high school was originally built,� Mayer said. �That meant we needed to do some soil compacting and a bid of $175,000 was awarded. They should be starting that soon.�

The estimated total cost of the construction project is $5.6 million-plus � to be paid for by a $3.5 million bond issue, with capital outlay certificates being used to fund the remainder of the costs.

Some reductions have been made after DLR Group told the school board in July that the price tag could be higher. The contingency was reduced and the cost of the library expansion was over-estimated, Mayer said. The gym will not be bricked all the way to the top and some finish work has been re-evaluated.

�We tried to work on cutting costs without cheapening the outcome or reducing its quality,� Mayer said. �When this is done, the public will be satisfied. People will see that they got what they paid for.�

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