Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON– Even as dozens of local performers prepared for their annual Christmas theatre and chorus production, plans for a permanent venue for those types of events hit an unexpected skid. The Marshall County Arts Commission last week opened bids on the group’s proposed Children’s Arts Center.
It wasn’t the present they were expecting.
Five bids were submitted for the project. The lowest– submitted by Cleaver Construction Company of Murray– was still significantly higher for the minimum level of construction. Architects had designed the project with several options which could be removed to lower the projected cost. Commission member George Milam said Thursday that even with all five of those options removed, the bids were still above current funds.
The bids submitted were also more than original estimates.
“Materials and labor and everything may have gone up, but it was surprisingly higher,” Milam said. “We’re just going to have to reassess. We need significant support to make this happen. The project is in somewhat of a crisis.”
Currently, the commission has a total of $863,356 available for construction thanks to the group’s $194,856 building fund and a $200,000 loan committment by the Marshall County Fiscal Court and Benton City Council. The largest portion of the funds come from a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant, which was awarded earlier this year.
The commission has already paid $31,500 for work done by architects.
The problem, though, is a nearly $200,000 difference between estimated construction costs and the actual bids. To make the arts center a reality, the commission has a limited time to come up with more than $400,000 for construction of the entire project or $177,968 for an alternate plan with many of the amenities removed.
The commission will have to discuss its options with a 30-day deadline in mind.
The group has been working for more than a year toward the 6,800-square-foot structure, which would house both performing and visual arts. Currently, the arts commission has to find available venues, such as the Kenneth Shadowen Performing Arts Center which hosted the group’s Christmas programs.
Officials with the City of Benton and Marshall County have stood behind the project, but it may need more support to become a reality.
“The city and the county both have unanimously endorsed this thing,” Milam said. “We look at all the facilities this county has and all we’re looking for is one venue for these kids to do their thing.”
The group will continue to try and raise funds. Contributions may be sent to the Marshall County Arts Commission, P.O. Box 692, Benton, KY 420205.