Mount Airy Seeks New Quarters In Library

Town Hall Beset By Overcrowding, Lack Of Handicapped Accessibility

January 29, 1992|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Staff writer

MOUNT AIRY — The drive to remedy a space pinch and questionable handicapped accessibility in Town Hall has administrators casting an eye across Main Street.

Town officials are working to negotiate an agreement to lease space in the county library, just up the street from Town Hall.

The county will be vacating the 6,000-square-foot building upon completion of a new library and senior citizen facility on Ridge Road,scheduled for October.

Though the Town Hall space shortage is vexing Mount Airy's government, the need to comply with the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is the primary motivating force behind the search for new quarters, said Mayor Gerald R. Johnson Jr.

By next January, all public buildings and government facilities must be fully accessible to handicapped citizens.

Public meetings are conducted in a meeting room on Town Hall's second floor, accessible only by a steep and narrow staircase that doesn't meet guidelines. The mayor said he's not even sure the entrance to the building meets accessibility specifications.

"If we tried to retrofit the building, wejust wouldn't be able to do it without an enormous cost," Johnson said.

Additionally, town employees are working in close quarters. Inone small, first-floor room, for example, working space for AccountsClerk Debbie Parker and Planning and Zoning Secretary Barbara J. Dixon are crunched together. Town Planner Teresa Bamberger's office is in the basement.

"We're cramped in here at times," the mayor said.

Another feature of the library that appeals to town officials is its central downtown location.

"It's ideal because I don't want to see the Town Hall moved out of the center of town," the mayor said. "At least it draws people downtown."

Johnson has been trying to work out terms for a long-term lease with the county commissioners. If an agreement is reached, town government wouldn't vacate the current building, Johnson said. Instead, municipal operations would expand into the extra space of the library.

The library, originally a bank, is believed to have been built around 1905, county officials said. The building also had been used over the years as a grocery store and an antique shop before the county bought it and made it a library in 1976.

Johnson said he has asked the commissioners for a reply before April, when the council begins work on the budget for fiscal 1993, which begins July 1.

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