NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city has been given approval by the state to move ahead with replacing the roof on the public safety building.
The City Council last November had authorized borrowing $351,000 to put a new roof on the deteriorating 63-year-old structure on American Legion Drive. The project, however, had been put on hold by the state's Architectural Access Board because the building is in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Last week, the AAB granted the city a waiver on the condition it make plans to deal with accessibility issues.
"We've been granted the appeal of the variance, in order to move on," Administrative Officer Michael Canales told the council on Tuesday. "We have reached out to the contractor who is, even though it's outside the 60 days that they were required to hold their prices, has agreed to honor it."
He said the city is getting bonding and contracts in place so the work can start.
The city had been under a U.S. Department of Justice decree to bring its structures and byways into compliance with the ADA after a complaint was made about the lack of access to the police station. An agreement was reached in 2012 and the city spent $1,259,598.95 over five years to bring it into compliance with the federal law.
The outlier has been the public safety building that prompted the initial complaint. The structure needs a significant overhaul and city officials have been leaning toward a new building should a suitable site and funding become available. But that's years away.
In the meantime, the building that houses the police and fire stations has continued to deteriorate and blue tarps have become ubiquitous inside the structure to keep rain off personnel and equipment. It had been hoped that work could begin in January but the waiver was required from the AAB because the cost of the work triggered compliance.
The cost of replacing the roof was over the benchmark 30 percent of the assessed value of the building; Canales later said it was close to 70 percent.
The request for a variance with full relief of the building, since plans were to replace it, went before the AAB in late February and denied but a hearing was held on May 6, and the board granted the variance.
The waiver came with conditions that the city put forth a plan for accommodations within 90 days and keep the state board apprised of its progress.
"That was one of the things they are going to hold us to moving this process forward," Canales answered to councilors' questions. "It's making the programs accessible, which could be anything from permitting done here at City Hall instead of over there, such as for smoke detector and other things like that. ...
"They don't want us 10 years from now coming back and asking for another variance on a building we've done nothing to."
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I don't understand how the city has been allowed to do nothing towards either building a new public safety building or bringing the old one into compliance. The decree from the DOJ was in 2012, so that's seven years of doing nothing. Why have the state and federal governments allowed this to happen?
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