Student lobbies for theater equipment funds

Posted: Monday, September 13, 2010

It started as a class project, transformed into a personal effort and, two years later, resulted in $25,000 for the Kenai Central High School auditorium.

As a senior at KCHS, Alex Koch was in need of a civics project.

He's spent a lot of his time helping to run the sound and lighting equipment for productions at the school's auditorium.

"I'm pretty much kind of their guinea pig," Koch, now a 20-year-old Kenai Peninsula College student, joked.

He saw that the equipment wasn't aging well and thought, "The community deserves better." So he decided to do something about it.

Koch put a presentation together detailing the auditorium's needs and traveled to Juneau to request that the governor and state legislature provide funding for spotlights and microphones.

"They were surprised that as a young guy my project was more organized than some people that come in," Koch said.

Sen. Tom Wagoner said he remembers Koch's presentation well.

"We do real good in building auditoriums but we do a real lousy job of maintenance," Wagoner said.

Despite his good work, Koch's first lobbying effort failed.

"I was mad, but that year we were tight budget-wise. There weren't any discretionary funds that year," Koch said.

Koch didn't give up. He fine-tuned the presentation and decided to target local leaders like Wagoner, Rep. Mike Chenault and Rep. Kurt Olson the following year.

"It's like what they say about cancer: fight the good fight. Once you give up, it's over," Koch said.

The extra effort paid off, literally. The legislature forked over $25,000 via a bill signed on June 4, 2010.

At its Sept. 7 meeting, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly enacted an ordinance accepting and appropriating the money.

"He's relentless," Wagoner said. "Alex saw this thing through. He started it, and he finished it."

Tim Elder, the theater manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, said Koch's efforts mean a lot.

The $25,000 will bring two spotlights, additional stage-lighting equipment and wireless microphones. The equipment should increase the professionalism of productions put on at the auditorium.

"Some of the wireless mics in the past were not as high-end as you can go and people would hear some interference, some banging and popping," Elder explained. "These are high-end mics to where they clip on the ear and you can't even see if people are wearing them. They get rid of a lot of the interference."

KCHS auditorium, which holds about 1,000 people, is a venue for school performances as well as professional theater and local productions.

On Sept. 23, the Canadian female music group Chic Gamine will perform and on Oct. 9 Pam Tillis will take the stage for the Alaska Peace Officers Association concert.

To Koch, the lobbying project was just common sense.

"How would you like to work in a place where everything's old, ancient and doesn't get updated?"

Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite@peninsulaclarion.com



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