Voters to decide on CHS auditorium improvements

Board hopes to reallocate science bond funds



By Jason Starr
The Colchester Sun

Colchester High SchoolThe Colchester School Board plans to seek voter approval in March to reallocate $722,000 left over from a 2013 bond sale that rebuilt the science wing of the high school toward renovations at the school’s auditorium.

Principal Amy Minor presented the board with estimates on priority areas for the auditorium during the board’s meeting Tuesday. Lighting and acoustics top the list; air conditioning is the priciest item. In total, the improvements are estimated to cost between $700,000 and $800,000.

The science labs were completed under budget in 2014 with a $5 million voter-approved bond sale. Board members directed administrators Tuesday to write a question for the Town Meeting Day ballot that would authorize the reallocation of the remaining funds. If approved, Minor said work on the auditorium could be completed by the start of next school year.

The list of improvements includes lighting, acoustic paneling on the walls, replacing seats, re-carpeting the floor and installing air conditioning.

Students from all five of Colchester’s public schools use the high school auditorium for performances. Community organizations also perform there. Minor said the improvements would make the facility more attractive as a rental option for private performing groups.

“If we do renovate, we would get calls that we don’t get now,” she said.

According to the district’s business and operations manager, George Trieb, the remaining bond funds would go to pay down the principal on the science lab debt if not reallocated for the auditorium. However, he said, the benefit of the pay down would be shared with schools around the state because the funds would go to the state general education fund.

“The effect on the tax rate would be very, very small,” Trieb said.

“It seems to me,” said board member Lindsey Cox, “this project would benefit Colchester far greater than any tax benefit. It seems like a really easy decision to ask the voters to support this.”