By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — The time to repair the Adams Memorial Opera House is now.
That’s the word coming from Public Works director Michael Fowler, who appeared before the Town Council at a meeting March 4 to ask for approval to spend money for the renovations this year.
Councilors voted, 5-2, to approve spending $150,000 from the public works capital project fund to do work on the historic performance venue located inside the Adams Memorial Building on Broadway.
Councilors Mark Osborne and Al Dimmock were the two dissenters. They said they wanted to wait a year before doing the work.
In September, the balcony at the Opera House was closed, Fowler said, following an inspection revealing areas in need of repair and potential safety concerns.
Major issues were stress on the roof and ceiling structural problems.
The upper seating area of the Opera House remains off limits until those repairs can be made to ensure safety for those attending performances.
Fowler originally planned to have the work done in next year’s budget cycle, but the news about the more serious structural safety hazards brought the project to the top of his list.
“We seek to move forward now,” he said. “We are ready to go and we can make this happen.”
Several groups call the town-owned Adams Building home, including the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Greater Derry Arts Council, and Derry’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
Last month, Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Executive Council awarded $20,000 to the Arts Council to complete plaster and painting work inside the Opera House.
That will coincide with the broader repairs that will be funded by the town.
“We will do all the work at the same time,” Fowler said.
Some, including Dimmock and Osborne, wanted to wait another year before paying for Opera House work.
Dimmock said he would rather see the money put into a new sidewalk plow for Derry.
Others also wanted the work to be put on hold.
“I don’t see this as a dire need,” resident Kelly Martin said. “I’d rather see that money put into (something else) like a pumper truck.”
Fowler said doing all the work this August will cause less disruption to the Arts Council and its performance schedule at the Opera House. The group loses 100 seats while the balcony remains closed.
Mary McCarthy, owner of local dance studio Dance Progressions, said she uses the Opera House regularly for performances and keeping the balcony closed can mean revenue losses.
“I love the Opera House, it’s a community theater,” she said. “But I may be forced to look someplace else. I’d rather keep them in Derry.”
Matt Cahoon of the Arts Council said doing all the work at the same time is best.
“It’s important to get the work done in August as we are slow then,” he said.
Plans call for the theater to be closed for repairs Aug. 4 through Aug. 29.
Fowler said none of the other offices and organizations using the building would be affected during renovations.