Old Winslow High School revisited ­ talk of potential community center

Inside of the auditorium at the Old Winslow High School.

Inside of the auditorium at the Old Winslow High School.

The doors to the old Winslow High School were opened once again to allow City Council members a chance to look at the condition of the old school and to at least consider the option of the City taking over the property.

Mayor Allan Affeldt, City Administrator Jim Ferguson, Councilmen Harold Soehner and Peter Cake and Councilwoman Sue Bumpus were the only city representatives present for the tour, along with Winslow resident Marie LaMar.

Mayor Affeldt said he had reviewed plans for the libraries in Cottonwood and Sedona and again reminded Council that he would be willing to lend his architectural experience in this if it were to be a project the City would take on.

"Am I an architect in the sense of having a degree from an architecture school?  No.  Was Mary Colter?  No.  Thomas Jefferson?  No.  Most of the great buildings in history up until our present time, were not designed by licensed architects," Affeldt said. "My work at La Posada has received rave reviews from around the world - from architects, historians and preservationists."

Affeldt led the group into the auditorium of the old high school, which used to be a gymnasium. The ceiling stood high and was decorated with ornate circular floral patterns, giving the building a classical sense of old.

Affeldt said since the auditorium was not the original use, it could be modified to become a central reading room ­ "like a cathedral of learning."

He described the Old High School auditorium high ceilings as being like those in churches, which are meant to be inspirational.

The damage to this structure was increasingly apparent. In only a few years, a corner of the auditorium has begun to experience water leaks that has eaten a 6-foot hole in the ceiling.

Affeldt explained that they could remove walls if needed, so long as they stayed away from the structural beams.

In a Sept. '06 memo to the City Administrator, the City Planner Paul Ferris gave an opinion on many issues regarding the proposed adaptive re-use of the old Winslow High School.

"A complete gutting and reconstruction of the interior may be required for code compliance, depending of the proposed use and project budget," Ferris wrote.

In his report, he said that over the years, the school district had severely compromised the historic architectural integrity of the building, which could raise some difficulties in obtaining state and federal historic preservation funding.

"Many interior historic details have been removed or covered by later technology, including self-closing metal doors with panic hardware, the covering or elimination of many heating radiators, the addition of electric and other utility lines with potentially hazardous insulation, and several generations of acoustic tiles applied to ceiling and wall surfaces," Ferris wrote.

William Collins, a historian with the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, said changes to an old building might not really affect it being registered.

What is agreed upon to be the overall character of a building is what primarily determines its capability of being recognized as being worthy of historic preservation status, he said.

"Whatever is significant about the building has to be recognizable," Collins said.

There are four categories for historic preservation: stabilization, protection, restoration, and rehabilitation.

Soehner asked if anyone else could purchase the school and Ferguson said that there could be some interest from the Navajo Nation to purchase the Old High School, but Affeldt said the tribe has no funds to rehabilitate it.

City of Winslow/Navajo Nation Liaison Mona Seamon said this subject came up when tribal members met with the city and district to discuss an oversight where a portion of the new Winslow High School property was built on over 30 acres owned by the Navajo Nation.

Seamon said the district was interested in getting the tribe to waive the rights to the property, but Seamon said her interest was in seeing some benefit to the Native American students in Winslow. So it was mentioned that there could be discussion of the Old High School to be traded with the district to possibly become a Native American Community Center. Seamon said the tribe does not have the funds allocated at the moment to do any rehabilitation on the building.

"My vision is that this building could become a community arts and cultural center," Affeldt said.

Head Start was briefly discussed, where Affeldt and Ferguson agreed that the school program is inappropriately located at the historic Old Country Club and that moving them to the Old High School could be a beneficial option.

Whether we decide to go with this old high school or with the old Bashas center, both are going to require a new infrastructure like plumbing and wiring, Affeldt said.

One issue that has since fallen by the wayside, was the concern originally brought up from the library that putting them next to the police station may be a safety hazard with the police traffic. Winslow School Board Member Dodie Montoya, said she is most concerned about having kids cross a parking lot next to a busy police station. Others brought this concern up to council at the last Council meeting too.

Affeldt asked why the librarian first supported the idea of moving into the old high school then later became an advocate for the old Basha's building even though she had safety concerns of putting the library next to the police station.

Winslow Librarian Docia Blalock, opting out of the politics, produced a study she found by David R. Smith of the California State Library at Stanford University. The study was designed to offer a guide to good and bad design criteria when planning a library.

With this resource guide, it offered a test to gage the desirability of proposed choices. It asks one to rate a proposed location based on things like visibility, public access, neighborhood and amenities; though, how one will grade the criterion would be different depending on whom you ask.

With better being a lower number and worst being a higher number, Blalock gave the current Winslow Public Library location a 17; the Old High School a 16, and the Old Bashas Center a 15.

Ferguson said that the City can more easily estimate the cost to build into the old Bashas since it is already gutted, but that the cost to the Old High School is uncertain since there is demolition and asbestos tests for the walls that needs to be done.

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