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Front Page » September 4, 2007 » Local News » Regents tour college buildings in preparation for fine ar...
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Regents tour college buildings in preparation for fine arts center at CEU

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Visiting officials from the state and local area observe as a make up class is taught in a cramped part of the Geary Theater complex at the College of Eastern Utah. The visit took place to evaluate existing facilities.

When the College of Eastern Utah and Carbon High were on one campus in the 1950s the idea of building a theater to serve the two schools was a good concept.

Up until then, the only theater on campus was the old Carbon College gymnasium. The gym had a small stage and was used for everything from pep rallies to school plays, much like a mulitpurpose room at an elementary school currently serves students.

The Geary Theater was subsequently built with high school and college enrollments in mind.

"It was designed to be a high school auditorium as much as a theater because the high school was on campus at the time," said CEU vice president Brad King last Tuesday as he stood near with the Utah Board of Regent members who had come to view the problems with the existing buildings in art corner of the campus. "It's inadequate for our needs now."

The tour, which included school and local community officials, was in preparation for the advancement of a plan to construct a new fine arts center on the campus, which would include theater, music and art areas.

Kevin Walthers, vice president of finance for the college, led the tour. Regents Bonnie Jean Beesley, Marlon Snow, Tony Morgan and Amy Engh were joined by associate higher education commissioner Mark Spencer, Utah higher ed director of budget and planning Kimberly Henrie, Utah division of facilities and construction management project manager Lynn Hinrichs and legislative analyst Spencer Pratt.

Kevin Walthers points to places where the music building is inadequate while Board of Regent members, college staff members, representatives from state construction management and a legislative analyst look on during a tour of the art facilities at CEU last week.

According to Walthers, the theater and the CEU music building are not only inadequate, but also unsafe.

"The state's division of facilities construction and management (DFCM) have shown the two buildings in the top five most dangerous buildings since 2004," Walthers told the group. "Since then other buildings in the state have received funding, leaving CEU's buildings atop the list."

Most Carbon County residents are aware an underground river crosses the campus and causes problems with buildings.

About 10 years ago, the library which was constructed in 1968 was rennovated primarily because the building was sinking into the ground.

During the tour, Walthers pointed out a number of places where the facilities are having structural problems.

With the help of CEU Ambassadors and the associated students of the college, Walthers showed the regents evidence of severe settling in the music building that has created cracks in the masonry and caused door as well as window frames to separate.

CEU facilities director Sheila Burghardt explained that the "building was essentially closing in on itself." She pointed to masonry problems that appeared in the last 12 months on the west outside wall of the music building.

In the Geary Theater, the regents visited instructor Grady McEvoy's classroom, where he was teaching make-up lab skills to 16 students crammed into a small space in the basement. The space is not accessible to disabled students. The group also toured storage and sound facilities in the basement.

On the stage, the regents saw the scaffolding put in place to mitigate falling asbestos. The members were also shown a stage with no scene shop.

When the theater was constructed, the intent was to build props elsewhere or on the stage. However, the college's current desire to present more shows and use the theater for more events has been hindered by the limited area.

At many college's scene shops personnel are often in the process of building scenery for an upcoming play or show while another play is being presented to the public.That is not possible at CEU.

During the tour Spencer pointed to the need for "equity" in the system, noting that other schools, including Snow, Dixie and Salt Lake Community College, have recently received new buildings or significant upgrades to their performing arts centers.

A proposed replacement project for these buildings called the Fine and Performing Arts Center will be taken to the board of regents in September with the hope of gaining legislative approval during the 2008 legislative session. The proposed building would be built where the college green (between the new Reeves Building and the theater) is now located and the old buildings would be torn down. A parking lot would be built where they now stand. The project. as envisioned, would cost in the vicinity of $27 million.

Walthers pointed out in a later interview that the existing 3-D arts building that was built in 1986 and is located just north of the present music facility will continue to function as it is.

"However, we have other art disciplines scattered all over the campus right now and they will be brought into the new facility," he said.

He also pointed out that the new facility has no name other than the one proposed to the regents and legislature right now.

"However the Geary name will be transferred in some fashion to the new building once it is built," he said.

The theater that is to be torn down was named after Elmo Geary, the drama and speech director at the college in the 1950's. He was the one that saw the existing theater almost to it's completion. He died just before the theater's construction was complete.

The officials tour ended about 10 a.m. with regents expressing concern that the college's needs be met while commenting on the warm welcome they received.

"We feel fortunate that policy makers came to visit us," said President Ryan Thomas after they had left. "The assistance from students through the CEU Ambassadors and ASCEU really impressed them. It's good for the regents to see students taking a leadership role.".

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