The Town of Suffield will be submitting a grant application in the amount of $500,000 to the Department of Economic and Community Development to help fund the costs of handicapped accessibility improvements to the .
The application for the Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is due June 1. The CDBG program funds come from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Connecticut communities with less than 50,000 residents can apply for these funds in a competitive grant process. ADA improvements to public facilities are an eligible expenditure under this program.
The Kent Memorial Library does not meet the standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for accessibility to a public building. The Town has conducted several studies over the last decade, all of which have concluded that it is a very challenging building to make handicapped accessible due to its construction with the interior ramp system and multiple levels.
Due to its listing on the State Register of Historic Places by virtue of its inclusion in Suffield’s National Historic District, we are working with the State Historic Preservation Office to have “minimum standards” apply. Minimum standards include one handicapped accessible approach, entry and bathroom facility and they apply where accessibility improvements would “threaten or destroy” the historic character of a building.
Noted architect Warren Platner designed the library. He is most famous for his design of the windows on the World Restaurant in the World Trade Center and his modern furniture designs.
The Town retained the services of Tecton Architects of Hartford to analyze various approaches to solving the handicapped accessibility problem. The alternatives were presented to Library Director Jim McShane and the Permanent Building Committee.
The preferred approach is to eliminate the hill along Bank Lane. Patrons would enter a new structure at street level adjacent to existing parking and have the option to take stairs or an elevator to the level of the current building entrance. The new structure would complement and respect the architecture of the existing library. This solution would not require utilizing any of the existing library space and would line up with the relocated circulation desk.
The estimate for the preferred solution is $1,022,097. The costs exceed the maximum $500,000 grant award through the Small Cities program and so other funding sources are being investigated. The adopted budget has $400,000 for library improvements and a portion of that may be allocated to this project.
There will also be an application round for the State’s Historic Restoration Fund in October with an opportunity to apply for a $200,000 matching grant. Other possible sources of funds are the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and fundraising by the Library Foundation.
The Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance approved submitting the grant application at their meetings in May.