Camas School Board OKs bid for historic theater remodel

Joyce Garver Theater revamp will include elevator for three-story building; district to use up to $2.5M from capital fund reserves

The Camas School Board Tuesday unanimously approved plans to move forward with the renovation of the historic Joyce Garver Theater.

The theater revamp is one of the final chapters in the $119 million construction bond Camas School District voters passed in February 2016.

School board members paused their decision to approve a construction contract earlier this month after all four bids came in more than $2 million over budget.

“Even though we’ve heard that bidders are hungry, I don’t believe that’s true of school projects right now,” Heidi Rosenberg, the school district’s capital programs director, told school board members Tuesday during the Board’s virtual workshop meeting.

Rosenberg said she was unsure the district could save money if board members rejected the offers and put the construction project out to bid again.

“There isn’t a lot of reduction we can make at this point,” Rosenberg said. “We’re talking a quarter of a million dollars (in possible project reductions) rather than in the $2 million range.”

The school board weighed three options Tuesday: Reject all four offers and rebid the project; accept the low base bid and scrap plans to install an elevator inside the three-story building; or accept the low bid for the remodel and elevator installation.

The options all included using up to $2.5 million from the district’s capital fund reserve fund, which is meant for construction projects and does not impact the general fund.

At the board’s virtual meeting on Tuesday evening, school board member Doug Quinn said he believed the third option — to accept a bid from Todd Construction for $11,665,000 (plus sales taxes and a 1-percent contingency fund) to remodel the theater and install an elevator — would “best serve (the district’s) path forward.”

“I would echo that,” said board member Tracey Malone. “The elevator is an important part of the project and it’s expensive to do that later.”

Board member Corey McEnry, who sat on the visioning committee for the theater renovations, agreed.

“I feel comfortable with option three,” McEnry said. “This was not an extravagant project. We’ve turned over every couch cushion (to save money on the project) and capital fund reserves are not the same as the general fund.”

Along with building Lacamas Lake Elementary and Discovery High schools, and upgrading several athletic fields, the renovation of the defunct Garver Theater — named for Joyce Garver, a former Camas drama, music and art teacher — was a priority in the school district’s 2016 construction bond.

Plans call for the theater, which is located next to Liberty Middle School at the corner of Northeast 15th Avenue and Northeast Garfield, to seat more than 700; have an open lobby with a flexible floorplan; get an upgraded auditorium, balcony and stage; have a new greenroom/classroom in the northwest corner as well as new restrooms and have an elevator to serve the public as well as to transport theater props and costumes.

School district leaders hope to reopen the theater in April 2021. For more information on the theater renovation project, visit camas.wednet.edu/about-csd/news/contruction-updates/garver-theater-renovation/

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