Updated 10:30 a.m. Saturday
According to the Connecticut Post, the specific health issue is air quality and the earliest volunteers would be allowed back into the theatre is about three weeks from now.
Updated 3 p.m. Friday with the following message from the mayor's office.
Dear Councilor Catalano,
Thank you for your letter regarding the Shakespeare property. 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. Given the stated potential for the public to be accessing the theatre this summer, it is my duty to have our health and building departments do the necessary testing and to conduct any review that is pertinent.
I trust that you also share these same concerns for the health and safety of Stratford residents and any patrons who may want to visit the theatre, and that you also understand the need for the Town to exercise its due diligence before allowing the public access to the inside of the theatre for any performances.
Please feel free to contact my office directly in the future. Thank you for your continued cooperation.
John A. Harkins
Councilman's Matt Catalano's letter to the mayor follows.
By Matt Catalano (R-3)
Dear Mayor Harkins,
On Tuesday morning, April 10th the Director of Public Works contacted me to inform me that you had ordered him to change the locks on the Shakespeare Theater, recover all outstanding keys and suspend all work.
I surrendered my key on April 11th to Director McCarthy. When asked for an explanation, he didn't have one, other then he was following through on what he was directed to do by your office and was given no further explanation himself.
After trying to contact you for two days now with no response from your office I am respectfully asking why you ordered the locks be changed, all keys surrendered and that all work be suspended?
For the last two years a large number of volunteers, including myself, have been engaged in the work of cleaning our theater, which sat filled with garbage from the time we took title in 2005 until we took office in 2009.
Since then, volunteers have selflessly given of themselves to do this work and made great strides in returning the theater to a state that would allow us to mount a production this May, for students from Stratford and the surrounding area.
Many Town Agencies, including the Fire Department, the Police Department and the Public Works Department have been involved and very helpful helping move this project forward.
Again, why would you lock the doors with no explanation and disenfranchise this group of residents and taxpayers from helping restore pride in our town?
Your actions are even more unfortunate because the Arts Commission is engaged in programming the space with a student season in May and other events in the offing. The Connecticut Post, Stratford Star and Hartford Courant have reported on the student season and now that season, in all likelihood is not going to happen.
We have a lobby committee getting ready to display our museum elements and program that space as well. We have been diligently working with the Fire Marshall to ensure the saftey of people in the theater and have been complying with all his requests.
Volunteers have gotten our theater to a place where we can actually use this amazing asset of ours, not only to prove that the theater is viable, but also to promote Stratford, yet you have chosen to, not only lock these wonderful people out of the theater, but for all intent and purposes, destroyed what we have all been working on for years.
We have engaged the community and they have responded, saving the town untold thousands of dollars in expense with their effort. On the brink of returning art to one of the greatest stages in America, to returning pride in our community and to proving the naysayers that the theater is viable, you have locked the door and literally thrown away the keys.
My simple question is why?
I would request that you reply to me, in writing, as to the reasons you have taken this action at this most important time in the theaters history.
Matthew P. Catalano
Stratford's Third District Councilman and Chairman Pro Tem of the Stratford Town Council