Phillipston requests amendment to elevator project

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 1/17/2019 9:00:13 PM

PHILLIPSTON — The selectmen held a public hearing Wednesday night to discuss a proposed amendment to an $831,000 fiscal year 2015 Community Block Grant awarded to Royalston and Phillipston to make the town hall in each community handicap accessible.

The hearing became necessary after it was decided at a recent joint meeting of the select boards of each town that Phillipston would drop plans for the installation of an elevator at town hall and instead opt for the installment of a chair lift. Paul Lienick, the architectural consultant for the project, said the move would reduce the cost of the project by as much as $225,000. Those savings could then be used to fund the total cost of the Royalston town hall elevator project, pegged at nearly $890,000.

“As you know, we bid these projects twice for both towns,” said Phillipston Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Flynn, “and the second time we bid the project they came in significantly lower in price by about 17 percent. But it was still a bit beyond what our budget would allow. We met a few weeks back with both boards and the architect and spoke about what our options might be. One thing we thought was very promising was that here, in place of an elevator, but in the same location, that we consider installing a chair lift which would still go from ground-level to the second-floor level to access the auditorium.”

“It meets the requirement of accessibility under the Architectural Access Board,” said Flynn. “The folks in Boston were amenable to it when I spoke with them after the meeting. I spoke to them and said, ‘This is what we’re thinking,’ and they said, ‘Yes, we see how that would work.’

The “folks in Boston” Flynn spoke to were representatives of the state Dept. of Housing and Community Development, the agency that had awarded the FY15 CDBG.

“The purpose of this hearing,” Flynn continued, “is that we need to file an amendment with them to say we bid it twice, we’re out of options for finding other funds, we applied for other grants, we’ve exhausted those, we’ve given as much as we can of local money. What we need to do at this point is consider altering the scope. What our architect told us is that by altering the scope it would save us significant funds; enough that we could get the project completed.”

“And it looks like we could still get the project completed by June 30, which is the state’s concern. They’re concerned about the timeline because the funds have a shelf-life to them, and they have extended them already. They’re willing to extend it again if this is the direction we go.”

Flynn explained that the installation of a chair lift would result in less structural work having to be done to the town hall.

“And we’re still able to achieve what we set out to do, which was to provide an aid to people to get to the second floor so that it’s legally accessible to the public,” said Flynn. “So, this seems like the better option. The other option is, if we don’t have enough money, we would have to return the funds to the state, which is not an option I’m recommending.”

Following the public hearing, selectmen voted unanimously to seek the amendment to the Community Development Block Grant.

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