Declared a fire hazard
STUDENTS preparing for the Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) Theater program’s production of Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” won’t be able to use the Tiyan GATE Theater after it was deemed hazardous by fire marshals.
The building, which used to be the Navy Air Station movie theater, was part of the 1995 BRAC properties turned over to the government of Guam. It was, in turn, taken over by the Guam Department of Education for GATE.
Anne Gorby, GATE Theater teacher, said they needed to have certification from a structural engineer or the Department of Public Works on the building’s structural integrity.
“We had a person from DPW come by Tuesday afternoon and he also had a letter signed by Joanne Brown. It was an assessment of our theater,” Gorby said.
The letter recommended the hiring of a structural engineer to further evaluate the existing structure.
“Basically, from his assessment, we were fine,” Gorby said. However, they were also informed that they would need certification from an electrical engineer on the building’s electrical integrity.
The cost to get the building up to par and in compliance has yet to be tallied, said Ray Twenter, another GATE Theater teacher. The property the theater sits on was also returned to the original land owners, thus it is no longer under the purview of GDOE.
Twenter said GDOE has made little effort to assist with the maintenance and upkeep of the building in the last 14 years they’ve occupied the facility. He and others in the program made attempts to get help from leaders, but to no avail with the exception of former GDOE Superintendent Juan Flores, who procured split air-conditioning units for the building.
The Variety spoke to Guam Fire Department Fire Marshal Officer in Charge Capt. Joey Manibusan about the theater and he said it’s temporarily closed, pending the repairs.
According to Manibusan, the entire building’s electrical system is unstable and a probable fire hazard.
Some of the problems found included exposed electrical wires, flammable extension cords under and on the stage, and broken emergency lights on the second floor. There is also no evacuation plan and the fire sprinkler is inoperable.
“My main priority is the safety of the kids who go to the theater,” he said.
But GDOE’s hands are tied as far as sprucing up the theater. Robert Malay, GDOE deputy superintendent, admits there are several safety hazards that must be contended with. But Malay said they can’t pour money into a building they don’t own and emphasized the program will be moving to Southern High School next year.
“We won’t have much use for it next year when we open up the Southern High School Fine Arts Building,” Malay said.
Meanwhile, Twenter said they’ve negotiated to rent the University of Guam Fine Arts Theater for a few days. The stage won’t have a set similar to the one built at the GATE Theater. The shows are next week on Oct. 26 and 27. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $5. For more information call the GATE office at 475-0598.