Mt. Vernon Register-News

February 7, 2014

Board debates new school cuts

By TRAVIS MORSE travis.morse@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — The proposal to cut the football field from the new Mt. Vernon Township High School plans drew sharp criticism at Thursday’s special meeting of the MVTHS Board of Education.

The board did not make a final decision on the elimination Thursday.

However, the likely plan of action moving forward will be to remove the football field from the base bid amount, but include it as an alternate during rebidding.

That means the field — including the grandstand, lights and sound system — could possibly be added back to the base bid later if funding were available.

Early on at Thursday’s meeting, Jared Shaner, the MVTHS football coach, and MVTHS student Thomas Spanbauer addressed the board members, asking them to reconsider their plans to do away with the field.

“On behalf of the football program, obviously for selfish reasons, we want as much as we can get,” Shaner said. “We hope you guys would take into account our school as a whole and the, I think, vital and integral part that our football program plays in that.”

Spanbauer said he has played football at MVTHS for two years and the experience has changed his life.

“Before, I never wanted to do anything,” Spanbauer said. “Playing football here has changed my viewpoint on everything. Coach Shaner taught us hard work, determination and actually to work for what we want.”

Board members Thursday reviewed an estimated $9 million in cost reductions to the new school that would bring the project under-budget. The reductions are being recommended by district consultants McCarthy and FGM Architects.

Cutting costs on the new school has been a board priority ever since the construction bids came in at more than $6 million over-budget in December. The addition of an auxil-

iary gym to the plans then added another $1.4 million or so to the cost over-run.

The most heavily debated reductions Thursday were the football field and the theater.

Eliminating the field would save more than $950,000.

With the theater, MVTHS officials are weighing two main options at this point.

One is to just build the shell of the theater, with an unfinished interior, which would save $1.795 million.

The second option is to build a “hybrid” theater with some of the interior completed, which would make the facility functional for theater practices but not actual productions. This alternative would save $1.250 million.

Some questioned Thursday whether it was wise to build a non-functional theater shell when that funding could be used for the football field.

Mary Beth Mezo, dramatics director for MVTHS, said if the shell is not built now, there would be no chance of having a new theater in the future.

“I do firmly believe that if this structure doesn’t go up at all, we’re never getting this structure, ever,” Mezo said. “It’s about doing what’s best for the kids and making as many things available to them as possible.”

The board held off on approving the cost reductions and scope changes Thursday so more detailed budget information could be acquired first. Now, the approval will likely take place at another special MVTHS Board meeting set for 5 p.m. Monday.

At this point, the district is planning to rebid all of the work categories for the new school’s construction, except for three that will not undergo any scope changes. These categories are earthwork, asphalt and ceramics.

The board plans to award the low bids for these three categories at Monday’s meeting.