Shakespeare Theatre Hits $377,000 Hurdle

'I will not approve taxpayer dollars to be spent on getting the theatre open,' says Mayor Harkins.

Though plans were in motion to stage a production this month at -- the first in decades -- health and safety inspection findings released today present a big hurdle for that to happen any time soon.

It was about a month ago when Mayor John A. Harkins, citing public health problems, on the Elm Street theatre and all keys returned to public works.

Health and safety inspections followed (the results of which are included below) and now there's an estimated cost to bring the long-shuttered theatre into code compliance for public viewing: $377,000.

"There are clearly some significant issues with getting the theatre into operation in the very near term," Harkins said in a statement. "As has been my stance in the past, I will not approve taxpayer dollars to be spent on getting the theatre open."

At about the same time the mayor ordered the lockout on the theatre, a consulting group hired by the town to draft options for the theatre's future presented its findings to residents and town officials. The all relied heavily on an energized fundraising campaign.

"The current study being conducted with regard to the viability of a theatre in Stratford does suggest a non-profit organization be created to raise private monies to be used on the theatre," Harkins said. "I strongly suggest the volunteers pursue that path forward."

After he was told to return his key to the town's public works director, Councilman Matt Catalano (R-3), for the theatre's rebirth, sent a letter to Mayor Harkins in which he asked why the lockout was ordered.

"For the last two years a large number of volunteers, including myself, have been engaged in the work of cleaning our theatre, which sat filled with garbage from the time we took title in 2005 until we took office in 2009," Catalano wrote.

"Since then, volunteers have selflessly given of themselves to do this work and made great strides in returning the theatre to a state that would allow us to mount a production this May, for students from Stratford and the surrounding area."

In a response to Catalano, Harkins wrote, "I'd also like to take this opportunity to offer a 'thank you' to all the volunteers who have been working on cleaning up the theatre. It is my duty as mayor of the town of Stratford to protect the town's property, and to assure for the public health and safety of our residents."

The health and safety inspection findings:

  • The presence of mold was seen in areas the building.
  • Proper air quality tests need to be conducted by an outside vendor, estimated to cost approximately $2,500.
  • No signs of lead-based paint were found.

  • The fire alarm system shall be completely gone through and certified for operation for theatre application.
  • The sprinkler system shall be inspected by qualified person or company and certified as being operational.
  • Water supply for fire hydrants located on the property must be in working order.
  • Proper illumination of exit signs shall be provided.
  • Proper lighting for the areas being used as well as emergency lighting shall be provided.

  • A code compliant electrical supply shall be provided to energize all required theatre lighting and power needs. As well as all required general lighting, required exit signage and emergency lighting.
  • A code compliant ventilation system shall be provided to all occupied sections of the building or proof of code compliant natural ventilation shall be provided.
  • Plumbing fixtures shall be provided for the number of occupants.
  • An inspection on April 20, 2012 revealed kraft faced insulation had been installed in the roof system without being properly covered by approved building material.
  • A plan shall be submitted and approved prior to occupying the structure
Patricia Clark Sperling May 16, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Prime real estate back on the tax rolls? Of course, let's continue down the road of the taxpaying property owners supporting this Town instead of jump starting some sort of economic development and stop Stratford from becoming a bedroom community!
Patricia Clark Sperling May 16, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Jim ~ I'm sure you are aware that I very rarely have agreed with you. On this, I do. I believe you are 100% correct that he's holding out on all of this until his developer friends (some of whom are on the RTC) can get their hands on it. I've heard that the good ole' boys would love to have a mini Mill River - somewhere they can continue to belly up and do nothing in Stratford! Good for nothing idiots need to go!
Geoffrey E Gilbert May 19, 2012 at 08:09 PM
The greatest tragedy of the past 30 years in this town is that it has allowed one of the greatest possible resources for theatre arts and education to rot away amid political scatology.The Shakespeare theater could and should be running year round.Not just for theater-goers,but schoolchildren in Jr high and high school to give them an appreciation of an actual live theatre performance of the greatest playwright of all time.I understand the mayor himself would benefit from this enterprise,as I hear he has never seen a Shakespeare play enacted.How sad that he,and consequently thousands of fresh young minds,have been deprived of the beauty and excitement of Shakespeare as it should be experienced,live onstage.Not in a drab classroom,boringly read by students who have no idea what they are saying,on a turn by turn basis.If the mayor and his lackeys refuse to put funds into restoring the theatre,they should at least let volunteers have access to it,so they can clean it,and/or mount a production under the tent outside.But I fear the dream of reopening the theatre will disappear amid the apathy of unenlightened political powers,and the greed and avarice of real estate developers."The world is grown so bad that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch!"-Richard the 3rd
Rachel Stratford May 22, 2012 at 05:28 AM
Talk about a tragedy! Letting the theater fall into disrepair is bad enough, but to suggest that it would not be an amazing asset to Stratford and the surrounding area (I'm from Trumbull) is nonsense. Do people not realize that it is the only to scale reproduction of the Globe theater? That in and of itself can draw people from all over New England and beyond - re-establish a Shakespeare Festival of good caliber and people will come from across the country. A LOT of people travel to see a good show. I currently live in Utah and am already planning a 2.5 hour trip to the Shakespeare festival in Cedar City. When my sister was in high school (in Trumbull) she went on a school field trip to Ashland, Oregon to see the Shakespeare Festival there. If you restore it, they will come.
Helene E. Logan June 01, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Well said. Unfortunately, we have a Donut-Town mentality in Stratford (see the 'get rid of it' commenters above), and a Mayor with no vision (or sense). This is why we can't have nice things. The idea that this theatre--a place that could provide a home for the arts, training for young people (I believe parents would certainly support an arts program [acting/music/dance] in their own backyard), access to real stage performances and the like is still sitting there unused is a disgrace.


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