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Stevens High Renovation Committee Approves Stage Study

Claremont — In the first step toward revamping the auditorium stage at Stevens High School, the renovation committee voted Wednesday to spend $6,000 for a structural analysis.

Steffensen Engineering, the structural engineer for the $12.6 million high school renovation project, will provide the analysis and review. In an email to Jeremiah Goulet of Banwell Architects, Lou Cote of Steffensen said the fee would cover measuring, design and detail of reinforcing, in addition to new floor framing.

“We have estimated there would be significant amount of work to rework the existing framing to suit a new ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) stage, including reinforcing to meet current code,” Cote wrote.

Goulet said the report from Steffensen would be used to develop a design to bring the stage into compliance with the disabilities act, which includes the addition of a wheelchair lift and reducing the incline of the stage floor to no more than a quarter inch rise for every foot. The current incline is closer to a half inch, Goulet said.

Once a design proposal is complete, cost estimates will follow and a presentation will be made to the public before the committee votes on it.

Larissa Cahill, the theater arts teacher at Stevens, told the committee that Van McCleod with the state Department of Cultural Resources has offered his services free of charge to look at the stage and will visit the school Jan. 8 to evaluate it. Cahill and Stevens Band Director Pat Granter said last week they wanted to work with McCleod to raise money through grants and donations to restore the stage. On Wednesday, Cahill told the committee she did some research and learned that the construction underneath the stage, seemingly haphazard, was in fact a specific design for stage acoustics.

Last week, a group of residents, including several students, barraged the committee with demands that the stage not be removed and replaced with a three-inch platform. Steven Horton, the school district’s representative on the project, had told the committee the state Fire Marshal’s Office required the stage be demolished.

The committee and School Board quickly changed course after learning there was no requirement from the state Fire Marshal’s Office and agreed to work on a design to bring the current stage into code compliance.

Part of Banwell’s design work will include consulting with the state Division of Historical Resources to see what it has had to do to bring similar structures up to code.

Also Wednesday, committee chairman Dave Putnam said the lawyers are still finishing the paperwork necessary to complete the financing for the $4.1 million Johnson Controls energy-savings project for the district’s schools.

“I was hoping to have all the documents finished today so the board could vote on it tonight,” Putnam said.

The lender, Sun Trust, was expecting to complete financing before the end of the year, but Putnam said that won’t happen unless the School Board schedules a special meeting during the holiday season. He blamed the delays on the complex nature of the agreement and the amount of paperwork.

“There is nothing that has not been cleared or approved,” Putnam said. “It just takes time.”

Johnson Controls will install energy saving equipment in the district’s schools that will produce enough savings in electricity and fuel costs to cover the annual loan payments with an expected additional $400,000 that will be put toward the Stevens renovation project.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.