MSP auditorium scrutinized by BOE

TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

Middle School of Plainville music teacher Todd Helming took members of the Board of Education on a tour of the MSP auditorium during a special meeting held on Tuesday, Dec. 4.

As of this meeting, the Capital Plan had a price tag of $560,450— of that $243,000 would go to facilities, and $317,450 would be used for technology. Under the technology umbrella is a request for $3,200, $500 of which would be used to purchase five new drums.

The rest, would be used to continue the upgrade project for the lighting system in the MSP auditorium.

“Everything in that auditorium is at least 25 years old, some of the equipment is over 40 years old,” said Helming. “That auditorium was supposed to be the biggest performance space in the district, and it got cut back to the bare minimum the state would reimburse for. It literally is the minimum amount possible, and what happened was, from day one it didn’t serve its function, it almost had no function.”

Helming explained that the lighting upgrade process began a few years ago due to issues in the lighting department. After collaborating with Steve Busel, facilities director, and the company that renovated the PHS auditorium, Helming and his team were faced with a $75,000 proposal.

“It was big, but we took it, we broke it down into steps, we cut out the things that weren’t 100 percent necessary, and we created this four phase plan,” said Helming.

Phase one was complete after two years, and cost approximately $17,000.

“The first phase was replacing the stage lights that hang over the audience, and this was very doable for us to complete on our own,” said Helming. “We were able to get the $17,000 through a variety of sources, and one piece at a time.”

He explained that the first $7,000 came from a STEAM endowment fund. These monies were used to purchase two “robotic lighting” units “that the kids have learned to program and work with.” The next eight lights were funded partially through parent fundraising, budget funds, and a grant from the Main Street Community Foundation. Approximately $5,000 was saved as Busel and his team were able to hang those lights.

“Phase two is a little more challenging for us to accomplish on our own because this needs to be purchased and accomplished all at one time, you can’t piecemeal it out and get one grant to pay for a part, parents to fund raise for a part – it’s a one shot, all or nothing, expense of $13,000,” said Helming.

Helming’s outline for phase two said, “The house lights have been upgraded to LED bulbs, but the system controlling them is over 25 years old. The controllers are beginning to break down and make the entire system unusable — they are past their life expectancy.” He writes that this system would be similar to the one currently in use at the high school.

The proposal timeline hopes to have phase two completed during 2019. Phase three would replace the lights over the stage, and phase four calls for a new hanging grid rigging system that holds all of the equipment that is suspended over the stage. Phases three and four do not currently have timelines.

“Everything we’re doing is not going to be replaced again when the building gets renovated like new,” said Helming, “it’s all going to be useable.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.