Bonding bill for arts school work dies in legislature

Published 6:00 am Thursday, March 7, 2002

The legislative death of a $2 million bond bill meansMississippi School of the Arts officials will have to lookelsewhere for the funding to “Save the Ladies” of WhitworthCollege.

The bond bill, which did not survive a legislative deadlineearlier this week, included money for renovation of the ElizabethCottage, repairs to the Mary Jane Lampton Auditorium roof, andother school-related work, said Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer, MSA executivedirector. Bond-funded project requests were almost double theamount of money available, the director said.

“There just wasn’t enough money to go around this year,”Bodenhamer said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Bodenhamer said the Lampton Auditorium roof was improperlyinstalled after an intensive effort by the Brookhaven Trust to savethe structure in the early 1990s. She said the roof failure iscausing extensive interior damage and the contractor that did theoriginal work is no longer in business.

“This is really sad because the community worked diligently formany years to renovate this building,” Bodenhamer said. “Now it hasto be redone.”

An estimated minimum for the roof repair is $100,000, schoolofficials said. That does not include estimates to correct theinterior damage.

Bodenhamer said the interior Lampton renovations were scheduledduring a later phase of the MSA project and that was when theinterior work could be done. The focus now is on the roof.

“We’ve got to fix the roof so it doesn’t deteriorate further,”Bodenhamer said.

The director said problems with the roof were first suspectedlast fall. After further inspection, she said the roof’s cornersare “like funnels” pouring water inside and its tiles areloose.

Other needed work which would have been covered by bond issuefunds included a complete renovation of Elizabeth Cottage, apotential future property purchase, pre-planning for other buildingwork, handicap accessibility for Lampton and money to restore acovered walk way for the Student Life Center.

Bodenhamer said lawmakers were interested in the pre-planningprocess.

“It gives a more accurate idea of what the projects will cost tocomplete,” Bodenhamer said.

As evidence of Elizabeth Cottage’s condition, Bodenhamerdisplayed photos showing leaves in the basement of the buildingthat was constructed in 1913. The building, when renovated, isscheduled to house costume and wardrobe design studios, archivalitems as a “mini-museum,” and the school’s office of admissions andrecruiting.

Bodenhamer said the school also was recently rejected for aMississippi Community Heritage Preservation grant for buildingwork.

“It is becoming more obvious that we’re going to have to rely onmajor private funding to make this school what we want it to be,”said Jennifer Jackson, marketing director.

Jackson suggested the possibility of community volunteer laborto do some of the cottage work.

School officials pointed out that the bond issue inaction wasevidence that the arts school is being affected by the state’sbudget crunch.

Bodenhamer addressed a misconception in the community at thearts school is a school district.

The director said the school is operated and governed totallydifferently than the state’s over 150 school districts. The artsschool is governed by the state Board of Education and the Bureauof Buildings and Grounds and will serve students from across thestate.

Despite the bond funding situation, Bodenhamer did not considerit a setback. She said operating funds for the next fiscal yearstill appear to be forthcoming, work on the Student Life Center ismoving forward and work on a web page to promote the school hasbegun.

“We’re pleased with the progress,” Bodenhamer said.