THE HUB December 29, 2005

ADA work on library to begin in new year
Renovation to make facility accessible will cost $1.2M
Staff Writer

As the new year begins, so will work on the Red Bank Public Library to make the facility accessible to people with disabilities.

At last Thursday’s Borough Council meeting, a resolution was approved authorizing the architectural firm of Kaplan Gaunt DeSantis to prepare bid specifications and receive bids for improvements to the library, which would include the addition of an elevator.

The improvements come almost four years after a settlement was reached with the U.S. Department of Justice as the result of a complaint filed against the borough, citing lack of access to certain borough facilities, including the library.

Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels said that among the items found by the Department of Justice to be noncompliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were the restroom facilities, which are not currently large enough to be wheelchair accessible, and the aisles between the stacks, which are not wide enough for wheelchair accessibility. The three-story facility also has no wheelchair accessibility except to the ground floor.

The children’s section and community meeting room are located in the basement of the structure and have no wheelchair accessibility.

When the settlement was reached in 2002, the borough had a deadline of October 2004 to bring all borough facilities, including Count Basie Park, up to ADA compliance.

Sickels said the reason it has taken the borough so long to get to this point in complying with the settlement is because the borough had been waiting for the Department of Justice to approve the plans the borough had prepared.

“We waited 12 to 14 months for that approval,” he said. “Now we are authorized to bid the job.”

Recently, the council awarded a contract to Precise Construction, Colts Neck, in the amount of $220,237 for improvements to Count Basie Park, which will include walkways, sidewalks, new fencing and bleachers, all of which will be done to comply with the Department of Justice settlement, according to Sickels.

The cost of the work to be done on the library, according to Sickels, is estimated at about $1.2 million.

He said the addition of an elevator will be covered, at least in part, by a $60,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, but the rest will be funded by the borough.

Sickels said that although the elevator recommended by the architect is smaller than one that would be considered ADA compliant, the government does allow smaller elevators when certain constraints, like the size and structure of an older building, come into play.

“We hope to keep the library functioning during construction,” added Sickels.

He said the project will likely go out to bid in mid-January and the bids are expected to be in by April.

“We could conceivably begin construction early in the summer,” said Sickels. “It all depends on the bid amounts. It’s tough to say, when dealing with the renovation of an old building. You can never quite estimate.”

The library building at 84 W. Front Street was donated to the borough for use as a library by the Eisner family in 1937, and the borough constructed an addition in the 1960s.