January 30 2020

Expenditure for Handicap Lift at Burlington History Museum Approved

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington History Museum will soon be accessible to everyone. 


On Monday night Town Meeting voted to approve the use of $120,000 to install an elevator life at the museum to make it accessible for wheelchairs. 


The article was put forward due to an impending need. Every year the School Department has students visit the museum for a field trip that is one of the museum’s biggest events of the year. This year, however, the department was considering cancelling the trip because a student in a wheelchair would not be able to attend if the building was not accessible. 


“Over the course of the last year the Historical Commission approached us about this,” Town Administrator Paul Sagarino said. “They told us that the schools would not be able to attend a popular annual program and would cancel the entire program if that student did not have access.”


“It is a town owned building so we should make it accessible,” he continued. “We wanted to ensure that we could put a system in place so we wouldn’t interrupt the annual event of having the school children come to the museum.” 


One Town Meeting members asked if this project would hit the one-third value of the building which, under state law, would trigger other required work to make the building fully accessible. Inspector of Buildings Andrew Ungerson said that was an unknown at this time but he believes the project should be approved. 


“I talked with [DPW Director John] Sanchez and the Historical Commission and we tried to find other alternatives for locations of the ramp,” he said. “I think at this time this plan is the best for accessibility of the building. When this goes out to bid we’ll have to sit down with the cost and the assessed value of the building to see if it will trigger any other handicap requirements.”


Town Meeting member Matt Frost said he thought the expense was high considering the number of people who would use the lift. 


“It seems like an awful lot of money for the number of people who would use it,” he said. “It seems like there are less expensive alternatives. Have you looked into other options?”


Frost suggested some options he said would be in the $5,000 range. Sanchez said they had looked at other options but determined those less expensive options and found they were not feasible for long-term use. He also said he did not receive any bids for anything in the $5,000 range. 


“Yes, we have looked at outdoor lifts and did not get a $5,000 quote from vendors,” he said. “Plus, with those options, we would have to modify the building. We’ll have something more expensive, unfortunately, but it will be indoors and work when we need it.”


Another Town Meeting member raised the point that while this project was initially inspired by the need to accommodate a specific student, the lift would be available for anyone who needs it. 


Peter Coppola of the Historical Commission said the museum has had guests in the past that needed help getting into the building and that having greater accessibility has been a long-term need for the building. 


In the end Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly in support of the expenditure.


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