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Panel: Keep Stevens Stage Wood Structure

Claremont — With disagreement continuing over the condition of the Stevens High School stage and what is required to bring it up to existing building codes, the Stevens Renovation Committee decided Wednesday to have the project’s architect complete a design that meets code improvements for handicapped accessibility, while leaving undisturbed the wood structure under the stage.

Committee chairman and School Board member Dave Putnam made the recommendation to have Ingrid Nichols of Banwell Architects design only upgrades to the stairs and railing in addition to a lift to make the stage handicap accessible and leave the rest of the structure alone.

“Let’s present it to the building inspector and fire marshal and see what they say,” Putnam said.

The response from local and state officials could end the disagreement over whether the stage’s support structure meets building codes.

Nichols said the pitch of the stage is not up to code and a report from a structural engineer said the wood is “insufficient in strength to support code-defined live loads for use as a stage.”

The current disagreement began when students, parents and residents voiced strong opposition late last year to the renovation committee’s plan to demolish the stage, built in 1929, and replace it with a three-inch platform.

The stage restoration is part of a $12.6 million Stevens High School renovation project that began last summer.

In response to a question from Bob Stringer, president of the Stevens Alumni Association, Nichols said their consultant told them the slope of the stage is not up to code. She also said their design was only one possible option for rebuilding the stage.

Stringer and others continued to insist the stage is fine.

“We don’t believe the stage needs to be touched at all,” Stringer said.

Stevens Music Director Pat Granter said she conferred with a consultant in North Sutton, N.H., whose first words were “don’t touch this, you could land a plane on it.” It was later stated that the consultant, Gerry Putnam of Cedarhouse Sound and Mastering is an acoustical, not a structural, engineer.

With no agreement in sight in the dispute over the stage’s condition, Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin wondered what should be done to “bring closure.”

At that point, Putnam suggested leaving the stage as it is and designing only the changes needed to meet the American with Disabilities Act. Submit that design to the city and state inspectors and they will decide why or why they won’t approve it, Putnam said.

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