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Report: Stevens Stage Structurally Deficient

Claremont — The wooden support structure under the Stevens High School stage in the auditorium must be rebuilt in order to meet existing codes.

“The structure under the platform is broken and is not structurally rated,” said Ingrid Nichols of Banwell Architects, referring to a structural engineer’s report from Steffensen Engineering of Auburn, N.H.

The report, presented to the Stevens High Renovation Committee Wednesday, is one of several the committee is waiting to receive before any decision is made on the stage.

Once all the reports are received, including that of an acoustical engineer who is visiting the school next week, Banwell is expected to create a design for a new stage and hand it to Trumbull-Nelson, the construction manager on the $12.6 million Stevens renovation project, for pricing.

The final decision on how to proceed will be made by the School Board.

Committee Chairman David Putnam stressed that the goal is to preserve as much of the stage as possible while also complying with current building and fire codes and “doing it in the most cost effective way we can.”

Quoting from the Steffensen report, Nichols said the “existing frame is of insufficient strength to support code-defined live loads for use as a stage.”

Steffensen said the deck could be reused. Nichols also said the ornamental pieces on the front of the stage could be salvaged.

The committee also heard from Stevens theater arts teacher Larissa Cahill, who presented a report from Van McLeod, commissioner of the state Department of Cultural Resources. McLeod was asked to look at the stage and weigh in on how it should be redesigned or rebuilt. His recommendations included lowering the four-foot stage by eight inches, installing a new deck and eliminating the eight inch pitch to make the stage flat, Cahill said. He also recommended electrical and sound outlets on the stage.

When Banwell finalized its design work for the school several months ago, it recommended removing the stage, built in 1929, and replacing it with a three-inch platform. It was said at the time the stage had to be removed per order of the State Fire Marshal as part of the renovation but that turned out not to be the case.

Public outcry over the possible loss of the stage forced the renovation committee to revisit the issue and decide on a different course of action.

Also Wednesday, chairman Putnam said they received the nearly $4 million from U.S. Bank for the energy-saving equipment that will be installed by Johnson Controls. With the final piece of the financing puzzle complete, the school district has signed both the contract and “notice to proceed,” with Johnson.

The company now has the “go ahead to start working on the project,” Putnam said.

Under the energy-performance contract, Johnson guarantees enough annual savings in heat, electricity and water to meet the annual payments on the 15-year loan from U.S. Bank, so taxes won’t be needed to cover the borrowing.

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