Educational Building Booms

Ag facilities, state’s largest school solar project take shape — with a little ‘divine intervention’

Touch-up: Renovations on the auditorium include new seats and a fresh coat of paint.

Touch-up: Renovations on the auditorium include new seats and a fresh coat of paint. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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A bit of “divine intervention” has helped the Payson Unified School District’s auditorium renovations.

With students home for fall break, other construction projects including the new agriculture building and solar panels, are continuing in full force.

With remaining bond money, the district is installing new seats and painting the auditorium. Officials wanted to buy new carpeting, but didn’t have the money.

“All of a sudden, a cloudburst happened,” said Director of Maintenance and Transportation Todd Poer. Mother Nature flooded the building and ruined the carpet in a “divine intervention,” said Poer.

The district’s insurance will now pay for new carpeting.

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Flurry of projects: Construction workers raised the roof on the new high school agriculture building, with giant steel trusses that arrived in one piece. Meanwhile, a bad storm proved a lucky break for crews working on the remodel of the auditorium when rainwater wrecked the carpeting the district couldn’t afford to replace without help from the insurance payment.

“This is unreal,” said Poer during a recent board meeting. The maintenance department also fixed a long-running problem with the stage lighting by simply changing the type of light bulb used. The fire system has been upgraded, and a new sump pump connected to a storm drain will ensure that the space doesn’t flood again.

Construction workers at the high school’s parking lot have ripped up asphalt in preparation for solar panels that will create covered parking.

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Site work: By the time construction crews finish work at Payson High School, they will have installed the largest solar power system of any school district in the state. The solar panels will also provide covered parking.

Once constructed, the solar panels will comprise the largest system at a school site in the state, and will generate 80 percent of the district’s electricity.

Through an investment partnership, the district will pay for its $12-million portion of the project in a series of installments over the next 15 years. The installments will roughly equal the district’s current cost of electricity, and no up-front investment is required.

At the end of the 15 years, the district will own the equipment. The middle school will also receive panels, along with Julia Randall and Payson elementary schools. Construction on the panels is expected to finish by the end of the year.

The district’s new, $1-million, 12,000-square-foot agriculture building has also begun to take shape. Once completed, the building will end the era of students in the award-winning program learning about large animal science without space for large animals.

Former agriculture teacher Wendell Stevens fought for the building during his 30-year career,

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