Selectman Favors Women’s Over ADA Restroom

Facilities Manager Andrew Daniel was at the Rochester Board of Selectmen meeting on February 5 to describe the renovation plans for the new ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible restroom at the Town Hall that will be fully funded by a state grant. Although he received approval to move ahead with the building permit for the project, Daniel’s plan received some opposition from Selectman Naida Parker.

The drawing that Daniel had on display showed an open area of the meeting room near the inside entryway being used as the location of the new handicap accessible bathroom because the existing women’s and men’s rooms are too small to comply with the space requirements for wheelchair access.

Parker right away asked Daniel where the file cabinets and audio-visual equipment for ORCTV would be relocated, to which Daniel replied he did not as of yet have a plan for the file cabinets, but a closet would be built for the equipment.

Parker wondered why Daniel couldn’t just use one of the existing bathrooms and expand it.

“Because of the space requirements I have to have for an access bathroom,” said Daniel, he would have to build a new bathroom in the only space available. The design of the restroom requires minimal distances from toilets and sinks, which equals to about a 6.5-foot by 7-foot area – the average size public ADA accessible bathroom, he said. Next to it the audio-visual equipment would be housed in its own 5-foot by 4-foot ‘closet’ space, in which the ORCTV equipment operator would sit during meeting recordings.

Also, Daniel added, the walls would be sound proofed for “bathroom” sounds such as toilet flushes and sinks running through the construction of double walls.

The new bathroom would be a unisex handicap accessible restroom that will replace the existing women’s room located in another location in the Town Hall. The existing women’s room would be transformed into a storage space, Daniel suggested.

“There’s no way to take the two existing bathrooms and combine them into two unisex?” Parker asked him.

Daniel said the Town Hall, by law, must have two bathrooms.

“You know, that makes no sense in a building that’s predominantly female,” Parker said. ”This is the building where the women occasionally have to wait for the bathroom.”

Daniel replied, “This one will be much nicer than the one you’re using now. There’s still going to be two bathrooms.”

Selectman Greenwood Hartley suggested that Parker and the other women could use the men’s room if there was a wait, which led to a ‘no I can’t; yes you can’ exchange.

Hartley asked Daniel what would constitute a ‘unisex ‘ bathroom, and Daniel said, “Just the sign and policy.”

“We’ll put a sign up that says ‘unisex’ then,” said Hartley.

Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar said she was going to suggest making both restrooms unisex, which Hartley liked.

“[The ADA compliant restroom] was the biggest thing on our list,” said Hartley. “It really takes away a lot of liability that we have.”

“We’re not one hundred percent, but it’s a big chunk,” said Daniel.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” commented Chairman Brad Morse.

When it came time to grant Daniel permission to seek the building permit, both Morse and Hartley voted in favor.

“I’ll abstain,” said Parker. “I don’t like doing it. I have concerns about the audio-visual equipment.… It’s still claustrophobic for people and that equipment has to be ventilated. I strongly urge that you work with ORCTV so that we don’t create a problem with that.”

In other matters, the board signed the inter-municipal water agreement with the Town of Middleboro for the water line extension on North Avenue for water service to the Annie Maxim House that was discussed during the January 22 meeting.

The board also approved four fundraiser events for the Rochester Country Fair at the fairgrounds for May 12, June 9, October 20, and November 3.

The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for February 12 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

Rochester Board of Selectmen

By Jean Perry


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