Mt. Vernon Register-News

January 10, 2014

Function trumps aesthetic

The Register-News

---- — Editor:

I voted for the new high school in Mt. Vernon, and I still desire a modern educational environment for our community and especially for our students. It seems apparent, though, that there has been gross mismanagement and incompetency in the marketing and planning for the new school.

The public quickly lost confidence in the school board and administration. Initial cost estimates, misstated tax consequences, mysterious sources for $5 to $6 million of “other” income, the illogical assertion that a curved wall costs no more than a straight one (shortest distance between two points?), and now the excessively high bids — all of these and more have brought the public to a high level of distrust with valid questions about the competency of those involved.

What can be done? If State timing requirements will allow it, the architect should be sent back to the drawing board for new plans using different construction methods and materials. It should be recognized that every architect wants to put his signature flairs into his designs. School boards and administrators can fall into the same trap.

What is more important in the design — function or aesthetics? If cost overruns are expected, which should suffer? Function should trump design flairs every time.

Many evangelical churches have learned and practiced this approach in building programs for the last several decades. They have chosen lower cost construction so monies can be directed to their primary function of evangelical outreach, not to building magnificent structures. Our school board should study this approach so tax dollars can be directed to the most important elements of the building plans.

Long lasting structures can be built with cheaper exterior facades that can be given attractive appearances without the higher costs of brick exteriors.

Would a redesign with cheaper construction methods and materials cause a postponement in the targeted occupancy date of 2015? Most likely, but which is better, cutting costs in a new design and starting later or holding to the 2015 date while cutting essential parts of the building? Haven’t some important items already been cut?

Let function trump aesthetics. Let’s get everything needed in the building to create a high quality education structure. Rectangular box construction using lower cost methods will be okay.

Gary Phillips

Mt. Vernon