Derry Arts Council Wins Grant to Paint and Plaster Opera House

The Greater Derry Arts Council is the recipient of a Conservation Number Plate Grant of $20,000 to paint and restore plaster in the Adams Memorial Building, also known as the Derry Opera House, on West Broadway.

Executive Councilor Christopher Sununu made the announcement in a press release after a Governor and Council meeting Wednesday, Feb. 12. The request for the grant passed Governor Maggie Hassan and the Council with a unanimous vote.

Derry Public Works Director Mike Fowler said the grant was awarded through the Division of Cultural Resources’ Conservation Plate program, which dispenses grants from a special fund amassed when people buy Conservation license plates.

Fowler said credit for the grant should go to the Arts Council, especially David Nelson and Matt Cahoon, who wrote the application.

Fowler said the grant will be used to repair plaster and paint, primarily in the Derry Opera House portion of the building.

While the grant technically expires June 30, 2014, Fowler said the Arts Council will apply for a 90-day extension in order that the painting and plastering be done in conjunction with structural repairs to the building.

Fowler explained that a September 2013 engineers’ report pointed to major structural flaws in the building. “Several structural members were overstressed, and we ended up closing the balcony in the theater section,” he said.

The engineering firm also identified structural faults in an outdated tar-and-gravel roof section and recommended that the area be replaced with rubber roofing.

The report also recommended reinforcing of the stage, ceiling and other parts of the roof.

Fowler said the original plan had been to put the repairs in the FY 15 budget, which will be determined in May. The plan was to put out bids starting in July and begin the work in September or October, he said.

But after he toured the property with Councilors Brad Benson and Neil Wetherbee, the two officials’ opinion was that it couldn’t wait. They brought it up in a Town Council meeting, and Fowler was asked to do a presentation at the Tuesday, Feb. 18 meeting, after the Nutfield News went to press. A public hearing is scheduled for March 4 to discuss taking a $130,000 supplemental appropriation from the Public Works Capital Reserve Fund, and adding $20,000 from the current budget to make $150,000 for the repairs.

“If that proposal is approved, we can go out to bid in March,” Fowler said. “We can have a contract by April or May.” The Arts Council has no shows scheduled for August, and both the structural repairs and the painting and plastering could be done at the same time.

But it is all dependent on the supplemental appropriation being approved, he added.

Fowler emphasized that all the money is already in the budget and that no extra tax dollars would be used, either in FY 14 or FY 15.