Kiona-Benton City School Board pays $2,500 for bear sculpture

The Kiona-Benton City School Board agreed Monday night to pay $2,500 for a bear sculpture that will be installed at the district's high school.

Superintendent Rom Castilleja said the sculpture would be installed above the entrance to the high school to limit vandalism and people climbing on it. Most board members said it would be good to have the sculpture as a way to rally students and the community to the school.

"It will give us a little more of an image," said Vice Chairman Dan Raap.

The steel sculpture of a life-sized grizzly bear was commissioned for a fountain in Benton City, Castilleja said. The sculpture did not fit in the fountain and it was left with the artist without payment. The artist originally offered it to the district for $5,000 but Castilleja negotiated a lower price.

Money for the sculpture would come from the construction fund for the high school. Castilleja added that art wasn't installed when the high school was built, meaning the district returned a portion of state funding for the construction. He said the district could reapply for some of that money for the sculpture.

Board member Wayne Elston was the lone member to oppose the purchase.

"I think this is kind of a waste of money right now," he said during the board's meeting. "There's a lot of things that need to be done."

Other projects that would better benefit from the money include the purchase of new portable classrooms or paving a portion of the high school's parking lot, Elston said.

Elston called the purchase "a done deal," with the board having little information on it before Monday night. Other board members rejected that characterization.

"If it was a done deal, we wouldn't be discussing it," said board member Jill Renz-Whitman.

w Ty Beaver: 582-1402