DERRY — The show will go on at the Adams Memorial Building as town councilors voted Tuesday night to approve $150,000 for structural repairs to the historic building.
In three separate motions, councilors voted, 5-2, to approve the plan. Councilors Al Dimmock and Mark Osborne cast the negative votes.
The building’s balcony has been closed since September following a structural review.
The vote came down to whether it was more important to spend the funds on the arts or on some other area, such as purchasing equipment for the town.
Dave Nelson, a trustee for the Greater Derry Arts Council, said the arts are usually the first to be cut in tough economic times.
“We understand that; we are just making a plea for the town to continue maintaining its substantial investment in this wonderful building and the programming that having the space opens allows,” Nelson said.
Councilor Dimmock questioned whether the funds could be better spent on possibly purchasing a snow plow or on some other project to help the town.
“What I’m trying to point out is I don’t feel that we should automatically say ‘Well, there’s money there, let’s spend it,”’ Dimmock said.
In the end, councilors agreed with a proposal to combine the structural repair work along with a separate $20,000 painting and plastering project for the Derry Opera House. The structural repairs are scheduled to begin in early May, and the painting and plastering work would take place in August, according to officials.
The theater would be shut down from about Aug. 4 to Aug. 29, when there aren’t any shows scheduled, said Michael Fowler, Public Works director.
It was in September that a structural review revealed some major overstressing of beams, Fowler said. There was so much stress being placed on the beams that the balcony had to be closed, Fowler said.
Closing the balcony has reduced the capacity from about 375 patrons to 275, Fowler said.
Nelson said the Arts Council is concerned that some groups that currently perform at the Opera House might go elsewhere because of the loss of revenue from the balcony’s closure.
“At this point, we aren’t selling out every show, but we need the balcony capacity for more shows than not,” Nelsons said.
Built in 1904, the Adams Memorial Building houses the Opera House, along with the Greater Derry–Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Derry Housing Authority and town history museum.
Plans call for addressing several key areas of concern in the roof and ceiling, Fowler said.
To reduce the load on the roof, the engineer is recommending that a section of tar and gravel be removed and replaced with a rubber roof, Fowler said.
Select trusses and beams also need to be brought up to modern code to support 45 pounds per square foot of load, as some beams are stressed by 200 percent, Fowler said.
The stage floor also needs some work, including being reinforced to support 100 pounds per square foot under the floor, Fowler said.
It is recommended that insulation be installed, which would produce a potential energy savings, Fowler said.