Mayor’s updated order further restricts library use

  • An update to Mayor William Martin’s executive order will further restrict access to the basement of the Greenfield Public Library until further notice due to safety and accessibility concerns. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • An update to Mayor William Martin’s executive order will further restrict access to the basement of the Greenfield Public Library until further notice due to safety and accessibility concerns. STAFF PHOTO/MELINA BOURDEAU

Staff Writer
Published: 10/16/2019 8:30:40 PM

GREENFIELD — An update to Mayor William Martin’s executive order will further restrict access to the basement of the Greenfield Public Library until further notice due to safety and accessibility concerns.

“The library’s ground-floor meeting rooms, custodial and stack rooms shall be closed to the public until a usage and occupancy plan is submitted and approved by the structural engineer,” reads the executive order that was issued Wednesday evening.

The mayor received a report on occupancy load and egress requirements of the basement meeting rooms earlier in October, which has raised serious safety concerns about the ground level of the library, according to the executive order.

Martin states that this report caused him to modify his Aug. 23 executive order. He requested the occupancy study, which was financed through the unrestricted program funds for the mayor’s office.

The report, by engineer Michael Rainville, states that based on the occupancy load of the basement rooms, two means of exiting the building are required for all areas of the basement at all times the library is occupied.

“There are no code-compliant means to exit from the basement if the northern doorway is blocked,” Rainville wrote. “There is no other code-compliant accessible means of egress from the basement at any time.”

According to the occupancy study, state building code specifies that spaces with one exit have a maximum occupancy of 49 people.

“The calculated occupancy load for the basement rooms is 108 people, which exceeds the one egress criteria of 49 people,” Rainville wrote.

The engineer also provided two options to create a code-compliant and accessible means of exit from the basement area with a cost estimate of $68,000 to $106,000, depending on the option selected.

The initial order

In August, the central maintenance director, library director, building inspector, health director, fire chief and chair of the Commission on Disability Access were ordered to present a report to Martin within 15 days of his executive order restricting the library’s use. The report details the steps needed to move forward regarding occupancy, restroom access, building deficiencies and safety compliance. Per the August executive order, the report was submitted to the mayor’s office on Sept. 13.

Martin said the same group met once again last week to discuss the occupancy report and what the city is doing moving forward.

“The next steps are prioritizing the safety of the public and staff, protecting the city from liability and making sure laws, regulations and expenses are prioritized,” Martin said in an interview Wednesday.

Martin said he anticipates an update from Greenfield Building Inspector Mark Snow and Safety Officer Robert Strahan in the next two to three weeks after they do an inspection of the building.

Based on the Sept. 13 report, Martin said he has directed central maintenance to hire a professional to perform air quality testing, which is in process; and directed the Water Department to perform updated tests at the library.

The executive order issued Aug. 23, which was effective immediately, stated, “The library’s meeting rooms will not be used for posted public meetings of the city’s governmental bodies, including boards and commissions.”

The reason for the restriction is because after closing, without staff present, there is only one door into the building, the order explained, which is not accessible. There are also other options for meeting rooms in the city, including the John Zon Community Center.

Anticipated costs

In August’s City Council meeting, Martin explained that if 30 percent of the building’s assessed value were to be spent on improvements, a Level III renovation scope according to the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board would require a “total rehab project.” Other state building code requirements may also require improvements.

“The library is valued at $723,600. Therefore, the 30 percent threshold is actually $217,080. Included in that 30 percent are all qualified expenditures we have already spent in the last three years,” Martin wrote to the council in a memo. “While we know that central maintenance has spent and plans to spend almost $200,000 in repairs, not all are qualified. However, it would not take much to trigger the requirement in the recommended updates for compliance.”

Martin said it is “highly unlikely” the city can avoid breaching the 30 percent threshold while conducting improvements.

The June 2018 Greenfield Americans with Disabilities Act self-evaluation and transition plan estimate of $64,000 to make the library accessible was found to be incorrect, according to Massachusetts Office on Disability Assistant Director Jeffrey Dougan and Access Specialist Jakira Rogers. Dougan and Rogers met with library trustees, the library director and the chair of the Commission on Disability Access to go over the self-evaluation and transition plan.

They found that the estimate of $64,000 was not accurate and that the costs could be significantly higher.

“It does not appear as though the proposed cost estimate captures the entirety of the work that may be required under the ADA to meet the Title II obligations, along with additional work that may be required under our state building code for accessibility,” Dougan and Rogers wrote in a letter.

“Additionally, there may be other obligations that will be triggered under other portions of the state building code (plumbing, fire, electrical, historical) that may mean additional work would need to be performed,” the two added.

The estimated cost of bringing the library up to code is roughly $9 million, according to Martin — roughly the same as cost estimates for the city’s share to construct a new library.

The City Council approved construction of a new library in March. However, now it will be up to voters, since the project will be on the Nov. 5 general election ballot following the successful submission of a citizen’s petition.

Reach Melina Bourdeau at 413-772-0261, ext. 263 or mbourdeau@recorder.com.




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