Questions raised about cost, size of project

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 12/8/99.

Cost and size of the proposed auditorium were the main items brought up at a special information meeting to discuss the building project proposal of the Paynesville Area School Board Thursday night.

The school board has been meeting with area organizations and various groups over the past two months explaining the building proposal and answering questions. Thursday's meeting was the last to be held before the vote is taken on Tuesday, Dec. 14. The polls are open from noon to 8 p.m. in the west lobby of the elementary school.

At the meeting, Peter Schoell, Paynesville, asked the board to justify the cost and size of the auditorium. "I feel the auditorium is rather large for a town of only 2,300 people," he told the board.

Harold Wilder, Paynesville, asked if the auditorium was too small. "I have been to several things at school where you can't find seating," he added.

Pat Flanders, board chairman, said it was not feasible for the district to build an auditorium large enough to hold large groups such as graduation or the grand march for prom.

"We don't have large enough tax base to build something large. By building the auditorium larger, the building codes would change and so would the fire codes. By staying this size, we can use the high schools existing heat source," Flanders said.

Flanders explained the proposed auditorium will seat 499 people, which would accommodate the entire high school student body for lyceum programs. By keeping the auditorium smaller than 500, the district will pay only nominal royalties for plays. A larger auditorium would be more larger royalty fees, be more costly and involve a different set of building and fire codes.

The total project (fitness center and auditorium) is about 20,000 square feet. Board members could not give Schoell or Wilder an exact breakdown on the costs for the project.

Schoell told the board that if the auditorium were being built by a private enterprise, it would not be feasible. "My rough figures show the cost of the auditorium costing about $6000 per seat," he added. "For half that money I could build a five-screen theater with a lot of extras."

The two men raised the question about keeping up with other school districts. Flanders replied that was not the district's motivation. Life will go on if we don't have the auditorium or fitness center," he said.

Paul Bugbee, BugBee Hive Resort, agreed the size of the auditorium is a tough decision. "I feel this auditorium and fitness center is a great project. The taxes will hit some taxpayers harder than others. It will effect me $5 more per day for the next 20 years," Bugbee said. "I'm not adverse to spending the money."

John Janotta added perspective as the high school principal and a parent. "I have listened to students who have done without such a facility. Students have been begging for such a facility. Many students have left the district (through open enrollment), so they could attend school elsewhere as they feel they were missing a whole spectrum," he said.

Dr. Bob Gardner, facility task force chairman, stressed the fitness center will offer areas for aerobic exercise and weight training, which will help the physical education department to meet the graduation standards.

Besides the fitness center and auditorium, the project will repair the basement locker rooms, add a new ventilation system to improve air flow in the basement, and construct four new tennis courts.

"The north wall of the high school was not intended to be an exterior wall, thus the reasons for moisture problems in the basement," Flanders added. "This program will correct a badly insulated north wall and also correct a couple of other problems which do not meet state fire codes."

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