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
Sudds May 09, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Richard C. Levin, President Yale University P.O. Box 208229 New Haven, CT 06520-8229 presidents.office@yale.edu T: (203) 432-2550 F: (203) 432-7105
Sudds May 09, 2012 at 06:35 PM
$377,000 needed to get theater to code… Current value of Yale’s endowment (as of June 2011)… $19,400,000,000 (that’s $19.4 BILLION… and that doesn’t even include the interest it’s earned in the last 10 months) Think they’d be willing to spend 0.0019% of their endowment for the keys to a functioning theatre for their drama school???
Tom May 10, 2012 at 11:53 AM
I'm sure the Town could have those motivated volunteers sign a "hold harmless" agreement citing all the hazards cited and require them to wear a mask, helmet goggles and a vest or simply require an OSHA 10 card (free). its no different then having town volunteers participate in many other functions. my .02
Heid b Fagan May 10, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Funny that it's a town owned building while they are controlling but when there are costs involved, they won't take responsibility. The town should donate it to a school or non profit if they aren't committed to maintaining the honor and gift of a pro theater....except of course they hope to make money on it! Grants could be a source if there is a non-profit organization; we are currently 100, 000 into renovating a little town hall theater; and our community is 4,000! Go supporters of the arts!!! Don't give in to those who lack vision and imagination; the arts are worth fighting for. Gotta run to a rehearsal myself; I have 85 students who count on me to provide them with art in education....thanks to those teachers who brought ME to the Shakespeare theater many years ago. What a return on an investment that teacher made in me.....since I have now brought the art to several thousand students myself.
Walt May 10, 2012 at 01:40 PM
nick jones May 10, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Should put new public works or police station there.... thks. For doing the right thing mr. Mayor...get rid of it...
CuriousOrange May 10, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Is the mayor in the pocket of some developer? Or is he on the side of the people of Stratford? His supremely outrageous sudden behavior reeks of conflict of interest.
tom May 11, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Just knock this aged,useless,money pit down already!..let's get that prime real estate back on the tax rolls!...all this talk about endowments,grants etc to fix it up is ridiculous.Even if it were possible,the building would not be able to sustain itself over the long term..all the fantasies about"great broadway shows",or summer theater productions performing there are great to think about,but let's face it,it would be hard to sell tickets in this economy...back in the day when this place thrived,people had less options as far as spending their entertainment dollars...now adays,with the arena in Bpt,the casinos,and various other venues,there would be a few hundred people max,that would go..it's time for this place to go,and have something there that would help taxpayers defray their always escalating tax hikes..
Jim Miron May 11, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Mayor Harkins has never supported the arts as an economic engine and wants the property for his developer buddies.
Mike Reynolds May 11, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Would you care to name these developer buddies and what plans they have or are you just slinging mud?
CuriousOrange May 11, 2012 at 01:19 PM
I wonder if ALL Stratford public buildings could meet the standards set by the mayor for the Theater. Solution: shut them all down until proved safe!
George E. Mulligan May 11, 2012 at 03:17 PM
I agree with the Jim Miron post, based on my beliefs and experience. Where is the UNUSED MONEY BONDED for the SHAKESPEARE THEATER? (Careful Jim - It took 18 to 24 months before monies BONDED to repair the Schools and Towns, were used, under your guidance) Are UNUSED BOND MONEY being used to MANIPULATE BOND RATINGS with HIGHER than deserved CASH RESERVES? > Still paying interest on UNUSED BOND MONEY? > Are BOND MONEY repaid. Town Council Chairman Tom Malloy's Council BONDED / REBONDED incredible $ 103 M I L L I O N just in the month of MAY 2011. * CT POST showed in the same MONTH other area towns - cities BONDED $ 20 to $ 30 million range * I believe that COUNCIL BONDED / REBONDED a minimum $ 130 MILLION. Come to think of it they REBONDED the year before MAY 2011 under Harkins - Malloy. * Likely the normal usual BONDING is always just over $ 10 MILLION to normal $ 15 MILLION * ERGO, the MALLOY COUNCIL may have BONDED / REBONDED $ 130 to $ 150 MILLION in 2 years. * Question which LAW FIRMS / BOND COUNCILS make money on BOND offerings and how are they paid relative to how much is BONDED & how often?
George E. Mulligan May 13, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Oh - PUCK?
earl May 14, 2012 at 12:56 AM
That place could use some nice granite curbing to spruce it up. Then the folks would come
Patricia Clark Sperling May 16, 2012 at 12:59 PM
I'd like to know the answer to that question myself! I was a very vocal supporter of Harkins in his bid for Mayor. I honestly thought that he'd be looking to the best interest of all the people in the Town, but it appears that I was wrong. He is busy listening to HIS cronies on the RTC. It appears not much has changed since he was elected. The "good ole' boys" still control what happens and what doesn't happen in Stratford.
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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