Vacant auditorium creates expense for school district
With the new middle school and the proposal to turn the building into senior housing not getting its funding, it is up in the air what exactly will happen with the building on West Central.
One thing that is sure is the expense it is creating for the school district.
Superintendent Sue Givens said it is costing the district about $50,000 a year for utilities while it is vacant.
Th situation also means changes for some of the groups using the middle school auditorium, including the El Dorado Community Concert Association. After many years of hosting concerts at the old auditorium, they will start this new season at the El Dorado High School.
“We understand that the school can’t go on paying these high utilities to keep a building that is pretty much vacant,” said ECCA President Lionell Butts.
But that doesn’t make the move easy.
“It’s a wonderful auditorium and it’s a great location for people to come to the concert,” Butts said. “We hate to have to leave there, but I’m sure the expense to try to save it is going to be way out there.”
Saving it would require whoever purchases it to decide to keep the auditorium or someone to step forward with a large amount of money to invest in it.
The school district is currently accepting bids for the purchase of the property, which will be decided upon in November.
“The school board told me they had looked into what it would cost to tear down the school, but leave the auditorium,” Butts said.
That would create the problem of having to build new restroom facilities and other repairs though and came with a large price tag.
“They said it would run about $5 million just to tear the school down and save the auditorium and expense of putting in separate heating and air,” he said.
“We sure wished we could keep it and somebody could step forward and set up some kind of fund to salvage the auditorium. The town really needs it. There’s not anything like it in town. The middle school is really old, but it’s really solid.”
The auditorium was last renovated nearly two decades ago, which means it is in need of more work on the aging systems.
“We hate it that we’re having to leave, but it was getting where we were getting ready to start a season and since the school had moved, we run into a lot of times where we needed equipment the school had for our concerts and now they moved everything out of there, everything is going through the high school,” Butts said.
That caused some issues during the second part of their last season.
They also were experiencing problems with the sound system at the old school, and had begun using the sound system of the church that meets there as well.
“We had some amps and different things that are just so old, part of the time, they would work and part of the time they wouldn’t work,” Butts said.
While he said it would be hard to uproot, they will have better equipment.
Their first concert has been changed to Sept. 19.
The ECCA is not the only group using the middle school. A church continues to meet there through the district’s facility usage agreement.
Givens said most of the people who use the auditorium wanted to move to the high school. The Celebration of Freedom program will be held at the high school this year as well.
“We don’t have any students or staff there and there is no parking,” Givens said. “It’s not as convenient now that we don’t have a school there.
“Until we have finished this RFP process in November, we plan to keep it going just as is,” Givens said.
When looking at the RFPs they receive, Givens said they will give consideration to those who want to maintain the auditorium, although they will have to show a plan for maintaining it.
Julie Clements can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.