BREWER, Maine — City leaders decided last year that they want to improve handicapped accessibility at City Hall, which now has a chairlift, but they also don’t want to spend excessive amounts of money to do so.
After considering adding an elevator inside the building and then one attached to the outside — both options that were nixed in January because of the more than $1 million price tag — the latest option is a wheelchair ramp that wraps around the back side of the building.
Engineer Jeff Thurlow of Carpenter Associates in Old Town presented the council on Tuesday with two ramp options to get people to the second floor of City Hall with estimated costs of between $100,000 and $340,000.
“Both of these are far less than an elevator and the bottom line is we need to make this building more handicap accessible,” Councilor Jerry Goss said.
Councilor Larry Doughty said he didn’t like the looks of the designs for either ramp.
“I think that would make the front of the building look hideous,” he said. “It’s a beautiful building.”
Thrulow and City Engineer Frank Higgins told councilors that depending on what the ramp was constructed of — granite, brick, concrete or cheaper materials such as aluminum or wood — would determine what the exterior looks like and the project’s costs.
After discussing the matter, councilors directed Higgins and Thrulow to come back with color designs of what the ramp could look like taking into consideration that there is only around $260,000 in grant funds to work with.
Thurlow also presented two options for adding a wheelchair lift to provide access to the building’s bottom floor, and possibly adding a handicap-accessible bathroom, which he said could be done at a later time.
The city had around $328,000 in Housing and Urban Development grant funds to offset costs, but that amount has dropped to around $260,000 after “a considerable amount of money” was spent on engineering studies over the last year, City Manager Steve Bost said.
“We’ve put a lot of time and effort into designing things we cannot afford,” Higgins said, adding later that, “We’ll bring back a package you can look at.”
During the meeting, the board also:
- Recognized Nathalie Perry, director of human services, for her 30 years of service to the city of Brewer. “It really doesn’t seem like 30 years,” she said when Mayor Joseph Ferris gave her a plaque.
- Hired Maine Earth of Hermon to do utility improvements on Tibbetts Street for a cost of $521,085; Penta Corp. of Moultonboro, N.H., to build a septage receiving station for a cost of $677,000 and an access road for $45,000; and T. Buck of Auburn to replace the bulkhead at the Water Pollution Control Facility for $2.5 million. All three project costs were offset by funds from the U.S. Department of Rural Development.
- Decided to spend $20,000 to fix the pump on Engine 301 and $9,445 to upgrade the pump on Engine 302.
- Posted the first reading of a sewage rate increase for September that would raise the cost of 100 cubic feet from $7.53 to $7.83, an increase of 30 cents. The change makes processing the first 1,000 cubic feet of sewage cost $78.30 for residents, and business customer rates would increase from $90.36 to $93.96 for processing the first 1,200 cubic feet of sewage. Councilors, who improved a 29-cent residential increase in February, will consider approving the change at their August meeting.