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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)
CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Cleveland City Board of Education is offering to scale back plans for Cleveland High School's new gymnasium in an effort to shave $1 million off the estimated $12 million in projected costs.
The proposed reduction came after a request by Cleveland City Council members for the school system to pitch in $1 million for the capital project.
On Wednesday, the school board's site committee discussed why the school system could not afford to contribute $1 million to the project and how reductions would affect seating capacity and weight room spaces at the gymnasium at the facility.
"We want to see if we can't scale this back a bit," said board member Murl Dirksen, chairman of the site committee. "It's a negotiation process, it always has been."
The City Council's request for a $1 million contribution from the school system was made in early April, about a month after the council voted 4-2 to commit up to $12 million of the city's $12.3 million reserve to construction of the new gym.
The school board issued a letter to the City Council on April 21 stating its intent to scale back the project instead of contributing $1 million to it.
The letter noted multiple smaller capital projects and maintenance needs that allocations from a 2009 half-cent sales tax increase funded.
"Our response is that we don't have the money," Dirksen said. "We don't have a hidden pot of gold someplace."
The proposed reductions to the project will be addressed as bid options, said Brian Templeton, architectural consultant with Upland Design.
Bleacher seating has been reduced from a capacity of 2,700 to 2,400 by removing two rows of bleachers from each section, he said.
Regardless of the proposed reduction in bleacher seating, the facility will be able to accommodate an additional 300 to 600 people between its elevated walking track and the gym floor, officials said.
The loss of the weight room space would be detrimental, said Autumn O'Bryan, principal of Cleveland High School.
"It puts us in a tough place," she said.
The new gymnasium is more than just a space for athletic and special events, it's about core physical education programming spaces, O'Bryan said.
Cleveland High School's current gymnasium was closed in December after the Raider Dome, which encloses the facility, received an unfavorable structural analysis.
Templeton said the first phase of the project, which involves relocating water and gas lines underneath the gym and demolishing the 50-year-old structure, now is up for bid.
Two demolition contractors and three general contractors have expressed interest, he said.
Bids will be opened on May 1 at 2 p.m., Templeton said.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org