Sidney BOE approves SHS air conditioning project

By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — Things could be getting cooler in the Sidney High School auditorium and music wing in the near future.

During Monday night’s Sidney City Schools Board of Education meeting, presentations were made on why the area needs to have air conditioning installed.

“For well over 20 years, I’ve advocated the installation of air conditioning in the SHS auditorium,” said Dave Ross, 1972 SHS graduate and SCS Hall of Honor committee member. “My initial interest was spawned during the early years of the Sidney City Schools Hall of Honor. Even when the outside temperatures were in the 60-65 degree range, it could still be quite hot on stage and throughout the auditorium.

“In later years I witnessed from the seating area, how sweaty both the Association and ShaNaNa got during the local concert series,” he said. “It remains obvious to me that both school and community functions need this improvement not only for year round activities but also throughout the school year. Well placed fans can help but also cause problems hearing what’s said on stage.”

Ross said when he expressed his concerns about the situation, he was told the high school auditorium improvements, which were to include air conditioning, would be included in the bond issue to build the new middle school.

“While the issue passed and improvements were made, auditorium air conditioning didn’t happen,” said Ross. “When the subject has been discussed over the past year, the right parties are at the table with keen interest, ideas, great questions and potential funding sources. A world leader in air conditioning is located within a few hundred yards of tonight’s meeting and their role is key.

“Emerson Climate Technologies is not only generous toward the Sidney area but they have key employees who have solid ties with the Sidney City Schools and are very interested in this project at this time,” said Ross.

Mike Shonk, SCS specialty trade maintenance employee, said the auditorium is already set up for air conditioning to be added to it and the music area.

“The coil is set up in the air handling unit,” said Shonk. “The power supply is there. A place for the unit to sit on is already there.”

Shonk said there has been some problems with damage to the band room and possible damage to carpet and the wood floor due to the heat.

“It will also take a lot off the rest of the building if air conditioning is installed,” said Shonk.

Stephanie Wilson, Music boosters president and Emerson employee, said in the past two to four years the boosters have spent thousands of dollars repair instruments that have been damaged by the extreme heat in the music room. She said it costs around $2,000 a year to tune the piano.

“In the last two years, two or three cellos have been written off because of the damage,” said Wilson. “Climate temperatures and a controlled environment is better for the teachers, students and instruments.”

Chris Gibbs, of Maplewood, is the president of the Gateway Arts Council of Shelby County’s board of trustees. The GAC has used Sidney High School for 29 years for events for students and citizens. In recent years, the Our Presents Series has also been held at the high school.

“Our Presents Series is composed of nationally known talent,” said Gibbs. “Currently we offer four performances in our Presents Series, and combined, these performances have brought to Sidney individuals from 10 Ohio counties and four different states. Of the 704 seats available in the auditorium, we currently are blessed to have 650 loyal season ticket holders.”

On tap for the upcoming Our Presents Series are performances by BJ Thomas, Collin Rae and the Osmond Brothers.

“And because of the overwhelming demand for our shows, we will be hosting two performances of Steve Lippia’s Simply Sinatra’s Christmas show in December,” said Gibbs.

Other performers who have visited Sidney include Ricky Skaggs, The Association, Rich Little, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Maureen McGovern and Melissa Manchester.

“Each winter your Gateway Arts Council funds a children’s theatrical performance for second-grade students,” said Gibbs. “We invite all second-grade students from all Shelby County schools to view the performance, free of charge.”

Gibbs said GAC is grateful for the auditorium and board of education which makes the community and school events possible.

“We believe the more citizens we can help get into their schools, into their buildings, offered by their local board of education; the more goodwill is created,” said Gibbs.

Gibbs said GAC contacted Superintendent John Scheu and told him a local donor was ready to contract for the engineering work necessary to install air conditioning in the auditorium and must rooms. This initiative, he said, was never acted upon.

He said if the BOE approved the project, the GAC will commit to continuing to have their shows at SHS auditorium; continuing the second-grade performances at SHS; helping to steward the auditorium; secure funding for new sound equipment; and lobbying donors for funding to complete the air conditioning project.

“And finally, I believe in leading by example,” said Gibbs. “If you embrace this project, I will personally write the first $1,000 check.”

Treasurer Mike Watkins said with out a permanent improvement levy, the project was too expensive for the board to undertake on its own.

“With these partnerships, it’s time to go forward,” said Watkins. “The potential donors want a firm commitment from the BOE that you will go forward with the project.”

Watkins said the estimate for Phase 1 of the project is $150,00.

The board approve a motion to advance with the proposed air conditioning project with the district contributing up to $50,000 for Phase 1 of the project.

By Melanie Speicher

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.