By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Community Preservation Committee has made its recommendations for the annual Town Meeting Article in May. The CPC voted to approve $583,500 in funds for nine projects.
The largest appropriation is $160,000 for exterior restoration on the Millicent Library. The next largest is $150,000 for open space protection at Indian Rock Farms, petitioned by the Buzzards Bay Coalition.
Other projects are $12,000 for Town Hall restoration study; $20,000 for land protection at Branch Brook, petitioned by the Board of Public Works; $10,000 for the town employee wellness committee for an outdoor fitness station; $17,500 for the Fairhaven Tennis Association to restore courts at Cushman Park; $45,000 for the Fairhaven Housing Authority to replace a handicap door at Oxford Terrace.
The CPC also allotted $50,000 for the Stratford Capital Group for its project to construct housing units at the former Oxford School building. The company had requested $325,000, a controversial figure that matches the amount the company offered to pay for the building.
The CPC also voted to appropriate $119,000 for the Historical Commission to restore the front doorway at the Academy building and to create a back door with wheelchair access to the first floor.
The building, a federal style schoolhouse built in 1798, is home to the Fairhaven Visitors Center and a museum run by the Fairhaven Historical Society. It is not even remotely compliant with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
David Despres, the chairperson of the Fairhaven Historical Commission, which controls use of the building, said the Commission has wanted to make the building wheelchair accessible for years, but wanted to do it right. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the HC did not want to put up something shoddy and unsightly.
“We don’t want our fellow citizens to feel like second-class citizens,” said Mr. Despres. “We just wanted to do it right.”
The plan calls for a concrete ramp to be built around the north side of the building. A new door will be built where there is currently a window.
Mr. Despres said that corner had three doors at one time. Under the clapboards there is the framing for the doors, and the remnants of stone steps are still there. Inside the door to the cellar, the framework for one of the doors os visible on one wall.
The ramp will be 34 feet long, with a landing in the middle.
The back of the building is better suited for the ramp because the front door is too high. The wheelchair ramp needs to pitch up at a specific angle, so the ramp would have to wind around and switch back, like a hairpin turn in the mountains, to get enough real estate, so to speak, to keep the pitch and not be too steep.
The back door will also have ADA compliant steps.
The other part of the project is to rebuild the front door completely. It has some rot and also has large stone steps. The new entry will have steps that are ADA compliant, with the proper height of each step, and railings.
The project will take care of three problems with the building, said Mr. Despres: The front door deterioration; a second form of egress; ADA compliance at both entrances.
The restroom is not yet ADA compliant, but that is a project the Historical Society will do “soon,” said Mr. Despres.
Town Meeting will have to approve the project. The article will be on the warrant for the May 6 meeting.
Mr. Despres said he was confident that it would pass. The money is there and the CPC approved it.
“I find it hard to believe any person would stand up at Town Meeting and with a straight face say ‘I do not want a town office building to be ADA compliant,’” said Mr. Despres. “It really is something that needs to be done. It’s overdue. And it’s not [going to] get any cheaper.”
The ADA was passed in 1990 and signed into law by George H.W. Bush.
CPC applications are available on the town’s website, www.fairhaven-ma.gov, under the CPC page (under Boards and Committees).
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