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February 12, 2014

Derry to get state grant for opera house work

State grant to help fund Opera House repairs

DERRY — Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Executive Council are expected to award a $20,000 grant today to the Greater Derry Arts Council for work at the Derry Opera House.

It comes at a good time.

The grant would fund plaster and painting work in the second-floor opera house in the Adams Memorial Building downtown.

But more work is on the way.

Public works director Mike Fowler will brief the Town Council next week on $150,000 in proposed renovations affecting the balcony, closed late last year, and the roof.

A public hearing is expected to be held March 4 so people can comment on what would be a supplemental town budget appropriation.

Commissioner Van McLeod of the state Department of Cultural Resources is asking the governor and Executive Council to approve the $20,000 grant.

“The interior has not been painted in 30 years,” McLeod told them in a memo. “The funds will support repairs to the plaster work and paint on all walls and ceiling surfaces located in public areas of the opera house.”

That the arts council will get the grant is good news for the town and supporters of the arts.

“We believe that is a wonderful situation,” Fowler said. “There definitely is a need for fresh plaster work and painting.”

Fowler credited arts council trustees Dave Nelson and Matt Cahoon for their efforts in pushing to obtain the grant.

An inspection last year turned up structural concerns, prompting officials to shut the balcony.

“We can’t take a chance on anybody’s lives,” Fowler said.

That reduced seating capacity by more than a third, putting 100 seats out of use in the 375-seat theater.

Fowler said he will present engineering recommendations to the Town Council at its meeting Tuesday.

Repairs are estimated to cost $150,000, he said.

There is about $20,000 available in the budget and the additional $130,000 could be drawn from a capital reserve fund, so there would be no impact on taxpayers, Fowler said.

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