October 23, 2018
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Proposed $10.4 million York project would triple the size of high school auditorium

Amy Donle | The York Weekly
Amy Donle | The York Weekly
Reports on a proposal to build a new auditorium at York High School are placed out for the public during a meeting earlier in January.

YORK, Maine — Residents will have a chance to weigh in on a proposed $10.4 million York High School auditorium project on Feb. 11, when a public forum is held in the existing auditorium.

The forum was initially slated for Wednesday but was postponed because of the storm. The Feb. 11 meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at the York High School gymnasium.

The auditorium building committee learned of the price tag from architects at Harriman Associates just days before the public learned the cost at a School Committee meeting Jan. 21, said chairman Zak Harding, school facilities manager.

“There was some concern” among committee members about the proposed cost, he said.

“Just the fact that it broke the double digits can be a psychological threshold for some people,” Harding said. “But it’s been on the capital plan for 10 years, and it’s a very important project for the schools and for the community.”

Some $5.5 million in capital funds is already proposed for the project, so if the budget holds, another $4.9 would need to be bonded for the project. As proposed, the base cost of the project would be $10.4 million. If the school committee wants to move forward with it, another $763,391 could be added to install a geothermal system for the space. That would bring the price up to $11.2 million.

Harding said when the voters were first asked to approve an auditorium in 2006, the projection then was that the project would cost $9.5 million in 2011. He said it also is important to realize that interest rates are at historic lows and construction costs are only going to increase as the economy improves.

The auditorium is proposed at 29,300 square feet and would include seating for 750 — three times larger than the 9,000-square-foot, 250-seat auditorium. The new center will be built on the site of the existing auditorium and would include a lobby connecting the gym and cafeteria, a stage twice as big as the current stage, greenrooms, storage space and a multipurpose room.

There also are a number of energy efficiency measures built into the project, including a “displacement ventilation” system that heats and cools from the floor instead of the ceiling to improve air circulation, a tight building envelope with increased wall and roof insulation, light-emitting diode lighting and more.

Harding said one of the cost drivers for the project is the “complexity of the space. The walls are all sloped and angled for it to acoustically sound. And that adds quite a bit to the building.”

Moreover, he said, the auditorium has to connect parts of the school that are at different elevations.

“It’s 18 inches from the gym to the cafeteria floor, and 4 feet from the cafeteria floor to the music instructional wing” — all of which will be connected to the auditorium.

The project budget released by Harriman Associates includes new construction costs of $8.1 million, $396,783 for site development, architect and engineering fees of $623,612, as well as $83,000 for a clerk of the works hired by Harriman and $46,800 for an “owner’s rep,” who will act on behalf of the school department.

The parent group Education Matters is already working in support of the project, member Barrie Hanlon told the school committee. She said there will soon be a Facebook page people can visit to learn more about the project, and the group’s Facebook page will post information, too.

“The York Community Auditorium is an important initiative, and we will help to inform the community about its merits,” she said.

At the Jan. 21 meeting, school committee member John D’Aquilla praised the architects and building committee for coming in with “a handsome design.”

“It’s appropriate for the space, it looks functional, and it’s aesthetically pleasing,” he said. “But obviously, the concern is going to be focused on the cost of the project.”

He asked if there were any costs that could be eliminated or scaled back.

Harding said there’s not a lot of wiggle room. Initially, the committee considered a 500-seat space, but the difference between 500 and 750 seats was about $400,000, in the grand scheme not a large amount.

He also said the size of the multipurpose room could be decreased. The room as proposed is about the size of the stage, so that rehearsals can go on while something else is taking place in the auditorium.

Committee member Dwight Bardwell said he was “intrigued” by the geothermal system.

Architect Dan Ellingson said that typically, the payback period for such a system would be five to 10 years, sometimes less than that. He said he hasn’t done a specific cost analysis for the York project, however.

The school committee and budget committee will both be voting on the project before it goes before voters in May.


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