Bonner school board approves contract for BSHS theater improvements
Upgrades supported despite significant cost increase
Improvements to the Bonner Springs High School auditorium will begin in two months, though they will cost more than expected.
The USD 204 Board of Education Monday approved a base contract with Benchmark Construction for $959,900 to make improvements to the auditorium or theater, which hasn’t seen a major overhaul since its original construction in 1964. With work scheduled to take place May 1 through Oct. 1, additional costs may be added when the school board considers some alternate improvements that were part of the contract, such as new seating, next month.
Original estimates had the theater upgrade cost at $677,000, but the board members seemed to agree with Board Member Patricia Welicky that the extra cost was worth it.
“I have seen a variety of improvements to the district on sports and it’s time for the arts,” she said before the board voted unanimously to approve the contract.
Benchmark provided the lowest bid of eight construction firms bidding on the project. Don Pruitt, representing HTK Architects, which designed the improvements, said the bid amounts only had a 15 percent spread from high to low.
“That tells us that nobody’s making any really big guesses on what the scope of work was,” he said.
He said the higher cost was due in part to an electrical panel on the stage that they discovered was dangerous and would need to be completely replaced and ductwork that wasn’t shown on blueprints that changed the cost of ceiling improvements. Additionally, while they thought they had estimated a high enough cost increase given the limited access to the theatre — with each entrance located in the center of the south wing — the estimate wasn’t high enough.
He said the bidding climate was also rapidly escalating, creating a 6 to 8 percent increase in project costs. He said he didn’t think the board would get any lower bids by rebidding the project.
A representative from Benchmark assured the board that the contracted Oct. 1 finish date would give the firm plenty of time to complete the project.
Superintendent Dan Brungardt said the improvements would really expand the space’s functionality.
“If we really want people invested in the district and the community, we really need a venue,” he said.
He added that the renovations may seem expensive, but the Piper school district is studying building a new high school and estimated its brand new theater would cost $4 million.
The board also seemed in favor of buying new seating rather than refurbishing the existing seats, at a cost of at least $18,000 more, though they will officially vote on the seats and some other alternates in April or May.
Funds will come from the capital outlay fund, which can only be used for facility improvements.