By SVERRE BAKKE
The White Salmon Valley School Board decided during a special meeting last Friday against fast-tracking construction of a new Columbia High School stadium grandstand.
Instead, the board voted to issue a request for qualifications for architectural services, with the intent of considering all its options before making a final decision.
Those options include:
Remodeling the existing grandstand to bring it up to code;
Taking the roof off the grandstand to allow for a year of use while a new facility is being planned;
Demolishing the grandstand and installing temporary aluminum bleachers while a new 1,200-seat covered facility is being planned;
Replacing the grandstand with a new 1,200-seat covered facility featuring aluminum bleachers and a press box, but not rest rooms or a concessions stand.
Superintendent Dale Palmer closed the grandstand in mid-February after two consulting structural engineers hired by the district pronounced it unsafe.
According to Palmer, the school board's plan is to have an architect develop a cost analysis for each of the alternatives that emerged during the March 15 board discussion.
"We need to get an architect on board to get the process going," said school director Eric Shrum. "We need some plans and firm costs we can look at."
As things stand now, the school district does not have enough money in its construction account to build the kind of grandstand community members voiced support for during a March 12 public meeting held in the CHS library.
"We're in a no-win situation," school director Tom Stevenson worried last Friday, "(because) we're going to have to replace the grandstand with something people aren't going to like as well as the old one."
The cost of a no-frills, 1,200-seat, covered aluminum grandstand with a press box is about $300,000.
However, that estimate doesn't include demolition, disposal and site preparation costs, or architectural and permit fees.
Palmer said the district should have about $700,000 in state matching construction funds available for capital improvements as a result of the Transportation and Maintenance Center project.
But some of that $700,000 already has been earmarked for other capital needs, such as a new roof for the old section of Henkle Middle School (as much as $165,000), and a $20,000 local match for a $500,000 grant that would pay for expansion of the White Salmon preschool facilities.
Additionally, the district is committed to demolishing the existing bus maintenance barn across the street from Whitson Elementary School and putting in a paved parking lot for Whitson staff and visitors.