Bickering marks talk on City Hall renovation Elevator to improve accessibility

October 13, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

The elevator is back in the City Hall renovation plans.

The City Council began a discussion session on the renovations yesterday with an acrimonious exchange between Council President William F. Haifley and Mayor W. Benjamin Brown and ended it two hours later with consensus agreement to:

* Include in the renovation plans an elevator that will make the second floor accessible to disabled persons, although the elevator may not be financed in the first phase of construction.

* Install accessible restrooms on the first floor, widen the entrance to City Hall and put in curb cuts to accommodate wheelchairs.

* Renovate first-floor offices for council meeting chambers and move part of the finance office to the second floor temporarily. Agreement to move the council chambers downstairs implies agreement to move the finance department to the basement of Longwell Center when the police department vacates it for new headquarters.

Mr. Haifley criticized the mayor for not clearing his plan with the council before asking an ad hoc committee of disabled persons and individuals who work with the disabled to critique the City Hall renovation plans.

Mr. Brown responded by saying that the committee was not intended to be permanent and that a permanent committee on accessibility issues will be appointed later.

"It certainly came about in a roundabout way," Mr. Haifley said. He said he was unaware of the committee's existence until he received written comments from Marilyn Phillips, a Hampstead wheelchair user and advocate for the disabled.

"There was nothing roundabout about it," Mr. Brown said. He suggested getting on with the discussion "and skip the who struck John about the committee."

"Don't give me 'who struck John' when I get a personal letter and a phone call [from Dr. Phillips]," Mr. Haifley rejoined.

The council's consensus was to make all levels of City Hall accessible. But whether the elevator is installed immediately will depend on prices when the renovation work is advertised for bid.

Finance Director Stephen V. Dutterer opposed both the temporary move upstairs and a permanent move to the armory basement.

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