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BENNINGTON — Officials toured five town buildings last week as part of an audit and update of Bennington’s Americans with Disabilities Act Self-Evaluation and Transition Plan, which was first adopted in 1995.

Town officials and representatives from the Vermont Center for Independent Living visited the Recreation Center, Bennington Firehouse, the Police Department building, the town offices and the Senior Center, checking for noncompliant areas.

“We are at the front end of the process of updating the ADA Transition Plan,” said Select Board Chairperson Jeannie Jenkins. “This process is very important to us, and we have truly appreciated [the center’s] expertise, and the time their staff and peers have taken to help us look at town buildings with fresh eyes.”

About 61 million adults in the U.S., or one in four, are disabled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Vermont, that’s 114,332 adults, about 22 percent, just below the national average of 25 percent, the CDC says.

In his preliminary notes on the inspections, Paul Dansereau, town director of facilities and building inspector, noted the areas of concern discussed and possible action items for the town to consider or undertake.

REC CENTER

Regarding the Recreation Center parking lot, Dansereau said proposed updates for the accessible spaces already are underway or completed.

Those included designation of new accessible spaces near the building’s new main entrance. The entrance was moved as part of a $3.5 million expansion and renovation project the town undertook in cooperation with United Counseling Service, which added a new section for children’s services.

It was also noted that a concrete ramp at the newly constructed main entrance from the parking lot is at a 7 percent grade. If a ramp is greater than 5 percent grade, Dansereau wrote, a railing is required to be placed on both sides of the ramp.

An action plan recommended determining options “to remediate either the ramp grade or install compliant handrails,” he wrote.

FIREHOUSE

The entrance doors to the firehouse on River Street from the parking lot side close in 3 to 3.5 seconds, Dansereau wrote, while a door swing should close no faster than 5 seconds.

Adjusting the door closing time was recommended.

“The second-floor conference room used by the Select Board for interviews was reviewed and the conference room table does not have adequate clearance under the table to enable wheelchair access,” he wrote.

The recommendation is to raise the conference room table height by placing blocks under it.

POLICE STATION

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At the Police Department building, it was noted that an accessible parking space at the rear of the building is marked on the pavement but lacks a designated parking sign. A sign will be installed.

A designated accessible entrance sign also will be installed at the rear entrance of the police station.

TOWN OFFICES

It was noted that a conference room table at the town offices does not provide adequate clearance for wheelchair access. Raising the table height by placing blocks under it was recommended.

Participants suggested considering methods of providing greater accessible access to town electric vehicle charging stations, along with consideration of a set of standards for the stations, as the town expects to install others.

A small extension of the parking lot pavement up to the wood guard rail at the town office EV charging station also was suggested.

SENIOR CENTER

Accessible parking spaces at the Senior Center are marked on the pavement, but they lack designated parking signs, Dansereau wrote. Designated accessible parking signs were recommended.

It was noted that the Meals on Wheels area public restrooms are ADA-compliant, but the restroom doors lack appropriate signs, he said. Signs will be installed.

“All accessible access doors [in the five buildings] were checked for compliance with ADA standards and unless noted above were found in compliance,” Dansereau wrote.

He said it is the intention to “continue to identify and build into facility budgets the installations of automatic door openers.”

Vermont Center for Independent Living staff members, who could not be reached for comment, are expected to review the town plan revisions and updates as the review process continues, Dansereau said.

Attending the June 29 inspection tour were Jenkins, Select Board members Jeanne Conner and Tom Haley; Dansereau; Peter Johnke, deputy director of the center; Colleen Arcodia, a peer advocate counselor with the center; and Harrie Hyatt of Bennington.

"It was a great opportunity to work with the Select Board on the review of the Town of Bennington’s ADA Transition Plan," said Charlie Murphy, a peer counselor with VCIL. "The board has made it clear via their Resolution of Inclusivity, that they want all the residents of Bennington to participate and have equal access to the town’s services and programs."

“I thought the tour was very informative, and having the people from VCIL there was extremely helpful,” Conner said of the inspection tour. “It was very important to have their perspective and input.”

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com

Reporter/editor

Jim Therrien reports for the three Vermont News and Media newspapers in Southern Vermont. He previously worked as a reporter and editor at the Berkshire Eagle, the Bennington Banner, the Springfield Republican, and the former North Adams Transcript.


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