Opera cleaning up after roof repairs made

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; For the Natchez Opera Festival, the show must go on &045; even if it means clearing water-logged debris and mopping up puddles.

The good news is that, Lord willing, the days of leaks at the Martin Margaret Performing Arts Center are over, thanks to repairs made in recent weeks.

&uot;Until that was done,&uot; said Natchez Opera Chairman Dr. Donald Killelea, &uot;there was no point in starting to clean up and redo the rooms.&uot;

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The former school building’s roof has been leaking for years, resulting in among building-wide water damage that includes stains along ceilings and walls, falling plaster and ceiling tiles, waterlogged and warped floors and damaged electrical equipment.

But in November, the portions of the roof above the auditorium and air conditioning units and the old gym were reroofed using almost $91,000. That came from a $75,000 grant the Opera Festival received from the state Arts Commission and $50,000 in city funds.

The remaining funds, a $100,000 Mississippi Department of Archives and History grant and $25,000 in extra city matching funds were used to finish the rest of the roof.

&uot;It’s all essentially complete,&uot; said city Building Inspector Paul Dawes. &uot;It’s been done for about two weeks now, except for some minor touch-ups. The building now has a good roof that’s basically sound.&uot;

For a week or so, a hired worker and the opera’s staff have cleared out debris and mopped floors in preparation for the festival, which kicks off this weekend.

Killelea admitted that much work still has to be done to repaint rooms, fix ceilings and floors and replace such things as water-warped windowsills.

But the building is in good enough shape for the show to go on, he said, even though performers have to rehearse around some of the damage in the school’s building rooms.

&uot;We’ll be ready to go,&uot; said Killelea, adding that new electrical equipment, such as dimmer lights, had to be rented for the festival.