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Driver Opera House could have collapsed
THE DRIVER Opera House, located at 250 Main Street in Darlington has been under construction since June 2017.

DARLINGTON – “The building would have probably collapsed without the residue and debris from floods,” Driver Opera House Board of Directors President Stan Krahenbuhl stated.
Construction has been underway at the Driver Opera House in Darlington on Main Street but not without a few hiccups. Krahenbuhl stated they have been running into contaminated soil and foundation issues that have been affecting the second floor, which is not part of the grant they received from the DNR.
“We are trying to take it a section at a time.”
Costs for the project have been going up and up every time something wrong is found, engineers and architects need to come and assess the problems.
“It is eating up a lot of time and money. It is still an ongoing process,” Stan reassured.
Stan says the main beam holding up the roof system is in desperate need of repair. From the leak in the roof, it traveled from the second floor, down the beam into the first floor. The beam reconstruction was not scheduled for the first phase.
“Right now funding is a key issue. All of these costs won’t be eligible for the 75 percent reimbursement from the DNR. We are doing a lot of cost overrun to fix this,” Krahenbuhl urged.
He has been in contact with area banks to see about receiving a construction loan to cover the costs. Right now they are looking into doing some more fundraisers and other avenues to raise money. One option is their tax credits.
Vice President Jean Kendall explained that they would be doing $754,114 worth of work that qualifies for Historic Restoration Tax Credits. They will earn 20 percent of that amount in tax credits. If they sell the credits for 90 cents on the dollar, they would have $135,740 that they don’t have to raise.
“However, we cannot sell them until we have earned the tax credits. We earn them by either proving we have paid the bills on the work that qualifies or waiting until the project is done. There are many businesses that want the tax credits. Selling them won’t be a problem,” Jean explained.
Even though the most recent flood did not affect the Driver Opera House, the years the building has been damaged by past floods has put them in the predicament they are now.
“This couldn’t have been anticipated by anyone,” Stan stated.
The deadline for completion was to be Dec. 31, 2017, but with all these new costs, it has been moved back a couple of months. They were concerned that the reimbursement process would stop after the end of the year, but it will continue until phase I is complete.
The board of directors feels they have the best neighbors in Marilyn’s and Thuli’s Creamery because of their patience with the opera house and having them suffer through the inconvenience of having the construction right next door and closing down Ann Street. They are happy that the City of Darlington has been in on with this process and can’t wait for everyone to be able to enjoy the building upon completion.
“I never thought it would be this involved,” Stan said, “and there might be more issues, but it is still too early to tell.”
Donations can be sent to Po Box 62, Darlington, Wis., 53530 or left at the drive through window at First National Bank. The Driver Opera House is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Any donation is appreciated.