Weekly Feature

2009-02-11 / Front Page

Town Board approves $60,000 to improve handicapped accessibility

by JESSICA L. FINCH Associate Editor

There are small projects, and there are large ones, and each one will bring the Town of Amherst closer to being fully accessible for all residents and visitors.

During its Feb. 2 meeting, the Town Board approved Board Member Shelly Schratz's resolution that calls for $60,144 of town funds to be used to address issues on the handicapped accessibility list.

The list addresses small projects — such as striping for handicapped parking spaces, signage and new door handles — in buildings throughout town. Most of the small projects can be paid for with money that was budgeted for 2009.

For the larger projects — bathrooms and paving parking lots — the funding is marked to come from the contingency fund if enough funding is not in the budget.

"(The) Town of Amherst should live up to the same expectations that the government expects of others," Schratz said in her resolution. "It is the goal of the Town Board to become more aware of our residents with special needs."

The list, Building Commissioner Thomas Ketchum said, was compiled two years ago, and this resolution finally identifies a funding source.

"Over the two-year period, a number of items have been accomplished; the remaining items are on the list," he said.

The list, as submitted by Ketchum, addresses 65 deficiencies in 18 buildings managed by the town.

The list has been reviewed by the Amherst Committee on Disabilities, Chairman Dave Whalen said. Since the committee inception, this list has been its top priority.

Whalen said the committee will continue to review town buildings and facilities for additional deficiencies.

"We are going to continue until all buildings are accessible," he said, adding that one of the committee's purposes is to have a strategic plan with a set of goals and objectives that the town can then build from.

Whalen noted the positive attitudes from those the committee has worked with in the town, especially Ketchum.

Many of the small projects can be done in-house by town departments. Ketchum said he has assigned the work to a senior building inspector, to go through the list and parcel out what items should be done by town departments.

The plan includes paving a parking area at Oakwood Golf Course, creating a usable lift for access into the swimming pool at the North Forest Road facility, and placing assistive listening devices in town courtrooms.

The two largest single projects, both estimated at $10,000 each, would put a women's locker room and showers in the North Amherst Recreation Center and handicapped accessible bathrooms at the Audubon Par 3 Club House.

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