New and improved auditorium lighting should take center stage over future track and turf improvements at the Boiling Springs High School football stadium.
That was the word Tuesday from Zach Gump, director of buildings and grounds for the South Middleton School District. When it comes to setting fiscal priorities, part of his job is to weigh the patterns of use in a hierarchy of needs in any recommendation to the school board.
As the only auditorium in the district, the high school auditorium is used almost daily for large group instruction and frequently as the major venue for student assemblies, community events and stage and musical performances, Gump said. He would rather see the board put the priority on spending money on an auditorium used by every student in the district than a stadium used only by a select few.
Gump briefed board members Tuesday on price quotes he received recently from Eslinger Lighting Inc., of Enola, and Pittsburgh Stage Inc., of Sewickley, Allegheny County.
Both quotes are similar and estimate the base cost of replacing the lighting system at around $206,000, Gump said. He added the board would also need to factor in about $25,000 in electrical work to install the new system.
The current system is original to the 1976 auditorium and uses a Lehigh lighting control panel that has exceeded its optimal life span, Gump said. “It’s not a question of it’s going to fail. It’s a question of when it’s going to fail. It has been ‘a when it’s going to fail’ for several years.”
There have been cases in the past year where the lighting has gone off while the auditorium was in use, Gump said. He added it can be expensive just to bring in a technician from Lehigh Lighting Pennsylvania of Allentown.
South Middleton has been paying Elsinger $6,000 a year to set up the theatrical lighting for the annual high school musical, Gump said. It has gotten to the point where Gump is uncomfortable with the prospect of holding graduation ceremonies in the auditorium.
As for the stadium, current estimates have the cost of replacing the artificial turf and resurfacing the track at between $800,000 and $1 million, Gump said. While the stadium is close in priority, the auditorium has the edge because it is used more often by more students across all grade levels.
Three of the four schools within the South Middleton district share the same campus. The high school auditorium is only a short walk from the Yellow Breeches Middle School and the Iron Forge Elementary School. The W.G. Rice Elementary School is the only building located away from the main campus.
There will come a time when the Lehigh control panel will fail completely along with the entire lighting system within the auditorium, Gump said. He is also in the process of soliciting quotes to replace the outmoded and worn-out sound system within the auditorium.
The lighting quotes are for a new LED system complete with a control panel. Gump has suggested the school board include the auditorium upgrades in an escrow project that would use the savings from future energy efficiency to fund related improvements at Boiling Springs High School.
Possible improvements include LED lighting throughout the building, window replacement and more modern automated controls for the HVAC system. The district could also incorporate into the project restroom renovations that could result in updated fixtures and further savings in utility costs.
Stacey Knavel suggested fellow board members rely on Gump to develop a plan that outlines costs and a proposed timeline. “For me, your recommendation carries a lot of weight,” Knavel told Gump. “There is no one else in the district that has a better handle on what we have, what needs to be updated and the cost.”
She agreed with Gump that the auditorium needs to be a high priority within the hierarchy of capital improvement projects. “The high school auditorium is probably the only room in the district that is utilized by every school,” Knavel said. She added the last thing the district wants is for the lighting system to fail right in the middle of a major event such as the elementary school Christmas concert.
“If it comes down to the wire, we may have to play a few more games on the road,” said Gump, emphasizing how it could take time for the district to secure the $800,000 to $1 million in funding needed to renovate the stadium.
Board member Denise MacIvor asked if the district could apply for grants or any other source of funding to offset some of the costs involved with the auditorium lighting or other high school improvements.
Gump said there are potential savings in the form of energy rebates. If possible, he would like to schedule the work on the auditorium upgrades for July or August before the start of the 2019-2020 year.