One of the biggest items on the wish list of people excited for the construction of the new high school here in Westmoreland County is the inclusion of a dedicated auditorium. It had been such a sore spot that a meeting of the Board of Supervisors several years ago saw the meeting room packed solid when it appeared that the auditorium might get the axe to cut costs. An update on the situation surrounding it came about during last month’s February meeting of the School Board, courtesy of Superintendent Dr. Michael Perry.

The auditorium’s funding is tied to the contingency fund, which, fortunately, has remained largely intact, at $1,916,149.94. According to Dr. Perry, the total amount needed to fund the auditorium’s construction lies in the realm of $1,166,149.94, which was the amount set on a change order. 

“Because of the size of that amount, the County Administrator wanted all three boards to be in attendance at a single meeting so that there would be conversation and agreement on what all the boards would be doing and what is being proposed,” Dr. Perry explained.

“We had said we’d use $750,000 of that money to go towards the completing of the auditorium,” the Superintendent continued, “and the county had promised since time immemorial that they would put up that amount as well for the auditorium’s completion. At that time, we thought it would take $1.5 million to complete the auditorium. We did all the value engineering we could, which brought it down to $1.6.”

However, a major snag arrived last year in the form of the Coronavirus and the ensuing lockdowns putting the kibosh on several meetings. As a result of this delay in a decision, the cost escalated to $1.9 million, which leaves very little wiggle room for additional costs.

“So if you look at the $750,000 we planned to use, and the $750,000 the county promised, that would leave us with a balance of $416,149.94 to complete the auditorium. When you look at the total contingency that is left, we’d have $505,497.40 remaining. That is the only room we would have for error if, at that meeting, all three boards agreed for the county to put up their $750K and we get the rest from the contingency.”

This means that there will have to be a discussion between many people about the auditorium. The county has requested a meeting to this end, involving the School Board, the Board of Supervisors and the Industrial Development Authority, which will be held on March 24. As part of the agreement with the Supervisors and IDA, five people can sign off on a change order.

“It will be up to you to look at these numbers, and on that night, talk to the other two boards, hoping and believing that we can get the agreement from the board that they will allow Branch Builds to continue and complete the auditorium based on the fact that if we got that much money from the contingency, we still have half a million dollars for the contractors to work with,” Dr. Perry concluded.

Chairman Ralph Fallin echoed this sentiment: “This is a critical meeting. I think it’s very important for board members to be there in person. There will be a lot of discussion, but we need to get this auditorium completed.”

The new high school is still slated for completion in February of next year.