By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Selectboard is ready to make a recommendation to Town Meeting for funds to make town hall fully accessible to wheelchair users and people with other mobility issues. At its meeting on Monday, 10/7/19, the board heard from Patrick Grime of JMBA Architects with some possibilities.
Mr. Grime presented the board with four options ranging in price from $35,536 to $50,587, plus $76,715 for a wheelchair lift to the offices in the front of the building.
Currently, wheelchair users enter the building from the north side, where there is a wheelchair ramp and automatic door. It leads them to the banquet room, where the Selectboard meetings are held, and to the elevator, which is across the room. The elevator takes people up a few feet to bypass the banquet room steps, to the main level. However, it goes through the Veterans Office and Assessors Office to get there.
Wheelchair users cannot get to the Town Clerk’s Office or the Collector’s Office. They can get to the basement offices and the auditorium upstairs.
All four options include partitioning the Veterans/Assessors spaces to make a conference room where the Veterans Agent can have confidential discussions, even if someone passes through from the elevator access.
In addition to the creation of the conference room, the various options include changing at least one door to open a different way, adding electric doors, and making new pathways to the main corridor. One option includes moving some offices upstairs to the East Room.
None of the options, though, can provide access to the two offices that are directly inside the foyer of the front doors, which are the Collectors office and the Town Clerk’s Office. To reach the front doors from the outside, people must climb two separate sets of stairs.
To reach that door and those offices from inside the building, people must climb down four steps that take them from the elevator level to the front.
To remove that obstacle, the firm suggests a vertical chairlift estimated at $76,715.
One option also includes a telephone in the banquet room allowing a person in a wheelchair to call down to the clerk’s office or collector’s office to have a town employee go to the person in the banquet room.
Selectboard Chairperson Charles K. Murphy said that was the only option he did not like. As the long time chair of the Commission on Disability, who also works with the disabled, Mr. Murphy said it was not creating equal access.
He said members of his committee have been trying to get town hall accessible for years, so a person can pay taxes the same as anyone.
If we are going to make it accessible, he said, then make it “accessible for all.”
The board will support an article at the special Town Meeting scheduled for 11/12, asking for the funds. They did not choose an option.
The board also heard again from Don Carlos Collasius of 33 William Street, who has been advocating to get the town to perform a level 3 tree assessment on a tree that he says is a danger and at risk of falling.
The Tree Warden is responsible for trees in town, and Mr. Collasius has said that he is not doing his job. The Selectboard has noted that the Tree Warden, G. Bourne Knowles, is an elected official and not under the jurisdiction of the Selectboard.
Mr. Collasius has been pushing the board to file a complaint against the tree warden in court to force him to take action.
Selectboard members, however, have said that Mr. Knowles has assured them that he will assess the tree, but that he has been waiting for a new truck to arrive.
Mr. Collasius, however, does not accept that explanation and has escalated the debate by placing a very large sign near the tree, which is adjacent to the town hall on the northwest corner.
Mr. Collasius pressed the board members to file a complaint against Mr. Knowles.
“I’m sure he’ll get to it,” said board member Daniel Freitas.
Mr. Collasius also chided Mr. Freitas and board member Bob Espindola for not calling him. He said they agreed to call him, but they deny that they did.
Mr. Espindola said that he has a long standing policy not to talk privately to people who have threatened to sue the town. He will only address them in public meetings.
After a bit of bickering back and forth, with Mr. Collasius trying to get the Selectboard to take the tree warden to court, he asked why they would not.
“To be honest,” said Mr. Freitas. “I don’t like your attitude.”
He also mentioned the sign and said Mr. Collasius’s behavior was “not very grown up.”
The meeting is available for viewing at https://www.fairhaventv.com/governmentmeetingvideos
Support local journalism, donate to the Neighb News with PayPal.
Click here to download the entire 10/10/19 issue: 10-10-19 Manjiro