The Board of Selectmen learned on January 22 that two Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance grants that Facilities Manager Andrew Daniel applied for have been awarded to the Town of Rochester.
The Commonwealth released $1 million in grant funding for municipalities to receive up to $250,000 for ADA compliance projects. Daniel spent months assessing the town-owned facilities and had to develop a transition plan in order to make Rochester eligible for grant funding. He submitted three grants: one on behalf of the COA building, one for the library, and one for the Town Hall. Rochester was granted two of them, totaling $75,000.
Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar said one grant was awarded for a maximum of $25,000 for the installation of automatic door openers for the two entrances to the Council on Aging building on Dexter Lane, along with a paved accessible pathway that would link the side parking lot walkway to the concrete patio accessed via the main function room.
In a follow-up phone interview with Daniel, who spearheaded the mission to make Rochester ADA compliant and is leading the project, he said he had received some complaints of how heavy the COA doors are, so automatic door openers made sense. And although the COA building was built after the ADA came into effect so most features are compliant, there was still the patio that, for safety reasons, Daniel thought should connect with the sidewalk for an added viable emergency exit.
Then, with a little bit of money left over, Daniel chose to purchase an ADA beach wheelchair for Rochester residents to borrow to take to the beach. The chair would be kept at the COA and residents will be allowed to check the chair out for the day.
The second grant is for a maximum of $50,000 to make the Town Hall handicap access entry door/ramp ADA compliant, equipped with an automatic door opener, and for renovations to add one unisex ADA compliant restroom. Furthermore, additional handicap parking spaces will be added to the parking lot outside Town Hall.
“The plans that we have are all to make some pretty significant changes to accommodate people with disabilities and people who have mobility issues,” Daniel said. “I’m really pleased about it.”
The restroom still needs to be discussed, Daniel added, since the existing restrooms are not feasible for expansion. Old Colony students took a conceptual idea that Daniel gave them, and drafted up a set of plans that Daniel could use when building the restroom.
Daniel will be performing most of the construction in order to keep costs down.
“It’s plausible, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” said Daniel. “It’s just another step the Town of Rochester is going to make to become ADA complaint and that’s the goal – compliance.
“A bit at a time and well get there,” he said.
Szyndlar praised Daniel for his efforts.
“A special thanks to Andrew Daniel for his hard work in getting us these grants,” said Szyndlar.
In other matters, Water Commissioners told the Rochester Board of Selectmen on January 22 that holding off another two weeks until the board approves language for a water agreement with the Town of Middleboro would be no big deal, since the project has been in the works for several years now.
Selectman Greenwood Hartley asked Water Commission Chairman Fred Underhill if he would mind if the selectmen took the two weeks in between then and its next meeting to allow residents who may be unfamiliar with the proposed project time to inquire about it before selectmen give the OK.
The project, which has been in the works for a number of years and has been approved by Middleboro Town Meeting voters, would extend the Middleboro waterline down North Street to provide domestic water service to the Annie Maxim House, an elderly residential facility, and fire emergency water to the Town of Rochester.
The inter-municipal project would be at no cost to the Town, although Underhill did say that he would prefer Rochester foot the bill for at least one or two of the three proposed fire hydrants, which Underhill proposed would come from the commission’s budget. The Annie Maxim House is funding the engineering and the construction.
Underhill and two other Water Commission members that night requested that the selectmen simply review the agreement, and Underhill gave some updated information such as a requested change in the size of the pipe from a 6- to 8-inch pipe to a 12-inch pipe.
“We think it’s a good thing for the town,” said Underhill. “It is bringing some more water in the town. It will help with fire protection in that end of the town.”
There are no serious requirements the Town needs to fulfill, Underhill emphasized, and with the larger pipe size, the Town of Rochester could possibly extend the line in the future to accommodate more municipal water needs.
“It’s been a long process,” said Underhill. ”We’ve been on this five or six years I think.”
Hartley said he thinks the project would be good for the Town, but he had reservations on moving forward with the agreement as presented that night because the matter hadn’t been discussed in at least nine months. He felt some residents might read about the agreement and have questions. Hartley preferred to allow residents to contact Town Hall to review the agreement before taking any further action, to which Underhill said, “At this point, it’s not a problem.”
The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for February 5 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
Rochester Board of Selectmen
By Jean Perry