Tony DeFrancesco, chairman of the Auditorium Study Committee, recommended to the School Board funding for a “Londonderry School Community Auditorium” featuring 800 seats and 28,800 square feet, at a cost of $8,993,000.
Funding would be through a bond to be approved by the voters. The committee recommends that the school board put architectural/ engineering fees for an auditorium on the ballot in March of 2015 and a bond article for auditorium construction in March of 2016.
According to the auditorium report DeFrancesco submitted to the board at its Tuesday, Aug. 26 meeting, the total cost of the auditorium includes estimated operating costs of $59,863 for utilities, $13,776 for maintenance and repairs, $10,500 for supplies, $4,480 for service contracts, and $71,448 for custodians, for a total of $160,067 annually.
Operating costs for the proposed auditorium are separate from the bond and would become part of the district’s yearly budget, according to DeFrancesco.
The committee was given $25,000 in January to complete its work, and hired the Marinace Architects firm of New Hampton, NH and Walpole, Maine. The work exceeded the $25,000 by an additional $25,000, which Marinace donated to the project. That brings the cost of the proposed auditorium from $9,043,000 to $8,993,000.
Marinace Architects’ recent projects include the Pinkerton Academy Freshman Building and Pinkerton’s Career & Technology Education building.
The breakdown of the costs for the Londonderry facility is:
• Sitework, $850,000.
• General building construction, $6,450,000.
• Equipment, $1,030,000.
• Administrative costs, $343,000.
The proposed auditorium would be next to but unattached to the high school cafeteria in an area currently used for parking and deliveries.
The report noted that some of the activities and events currently taking place in the gym would move to the auditorium. “We expect that this will cause a decrease in current utility and overtime expenses, thus helping to offset some of the auditorium operating costs,” the report said.
The report suggests funding sources for the auditorium to include: naming rights, fundraising campaigns that would occur prior to bonding, donations, sale of auditorium seat placards, groundbreaking activities, an opening night performance reception, bricks for a walkway and corporate lobby banners.
“This committee explored potential funding sources for capital and operating costs in order to reduce the tax impact,” the report states. “It also sought to create cost efficiencies in the architectural design and to utilize existing facilities.
“Funding for the Londonderry School Community Auditorium will require bonding approved by the voters,” the report added.
DeFrancesco told the school board his committee was indebted to a 2006 committee for the groundwork provided, and noted the estimated $17 million “in today’s dollars” that the 2006 committee projected as the cost of the facility would be done for just over $8 million. The earlier committee, however, had focused on an auditorium seating 950 and covering 45,000 square feet.
“Due to their diligence,” DeFrancesco said of the 2006 committee, “the current committee felt there was no need to re-invent the wheel. As a result, we used the 2006 report as a starting point and guide for moving forward.
“With the help of the Marinace Architectural firm, the committee researched five different locations on the high school campus,” he explained. “The location in this report mirrors the conclusion of the 2006 committee that the cafeteria site is the best overall site due to accessibility for the high school students, accessibility for the general public, size considerations, and cost considerations.”
DeFrancesco said the committee studied, researched and visited auditoriums and performing arts facilities in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, and New York.
The proposed auditorium, he said, “thoroughly meets the needs of Londonderry High School, the entire school district and the community at large, in size, dimension, scope and price.”
He added that the auditorium is a community facility that can, in addition to being used for school purposes, be used for community theater, dance, and lectures for the police and fire departments.
The proposal calls for a 40-foot by 40-foot stage with 25-foot wings and a 40-foot proscenium. The orchestra pit would be lower than the stage by about six feet and would be in front of the stage rather than under it, “because family wants to see the students perform,” DeFrancesco said.
The lobby would be approximately 2,000 square feet.
“The fact that the auditorium is not connected to the school and has a separate entrance has a security effect,” DeFrancesco said. “In other schools, in order to get to the auditorium, you have to enter the school. This provides a separate entry so that people aren’t in the school while it is in session and are not entering the school to access the auditorium when the school is empty.”
Architect Frank Marinace said borings taken had verified that the site was suitable for the auditorium and architect Paul Marinace said the New Hampshire Department of Transportation had seen the plan and “signed off on it.”
DeFrancesco read into the record a letter from State Representative Lisa Whittemore, D-Londonderry, who said she fully supported the proposal. “This auditorium proposal addresses a clear need for our community and one that has been a cause célèbre for many dedicated residents,” she wrote. “We in town have given our student athletes many resources and rightfully so, as teamwork and cooperation on the field are great teachers to coming generations. But we must also honor and attend to those skills off the field, abilities whose natural home is off the turf, the pool, or the track. There is a distinct benefit to having a lecture space, a meeting space, and a performance space where those less physical arts and sciences have a home.
“I fully support this proposal and would ask that we include special consideration for our music program, which has been widely recognized throughout the nation and yet has not a single performance venue here at home,” she added.
State Senator Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said it is time the auditorium proposal went to the voters. State Representative Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, agreed.
But school board member Steve Young said he needed to know more about the costs to the taxpayer.
“I think it’s important that the committee, the district and me as one fifth understand the debt load at this time,” he said. “I think that it’s important that the debt load be scheduled out so we show that debt load reduction or debt load increase if we add this over the next decade or over the life of the bond.”
Superintendent of Schools Nathan Greenberg said the district could pull together some of the figures Young sought.
Resident Bob Steenson supported the auditorium and said voters had shown short-sightedness in the past when proposals took three or four attempts to get something done. “Not to have a program like this, to paraphrase Tony, is pathetic,” he said.
Resident Reed Clark said that “in four and a half hours I’ll be 85 years old,” and hoped an auditorium bond passed on the first go around so that he could be in it.
Chairman Leitha Reilly took a vote to continue the proceedings until the next school board meeting on Sept. 9. It passed unanimously.
The committee report can be viewed at www.londonderry.org.