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Waddington revisits state grant application

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WADDINGTON – The town council intends to revisit a state grant application to fund a wheelchair access lift outside the old Town Hall that was denied last year.

Last month, Town Supervisor Mark Scott appointed Councilman Robert Dalton to head a committee that would focus on the repairs and improvements to the old Town Hall, including the wheelchair lift.

“First and foremost we need to make the building handicapped-accessible before we can do anything else,” Mr. Dalton said Friday. “We can’t fully utilize the building without handicapped accessibility.”

The building’s top floor contains a hall used primarily for weddings, concerts and private parties. The bottom floor houses the Waddington Neighborhood Center and Chamber of Commerce. Both floors are only accessible by stairs.

The town has been working to construct handicapped access to the building since a 2011 conditions assessment review identified it as one of the building’s major deficiencies.

The town council applied for a $210,000 Environmental Protection Fund grant through the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation in July to fund an outside lift and staircase. The town was approved for a $50,000 matching grant by the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency last year, contingent upon state funding.

While the application was approved by the state, it was later rejected by the Regional Economic Development Council and sent back to the town for reapplication.

The committee is considering hiring an architect to reexamine whether the project can be constructed indoors and for less money. The architect would also assess the cost of other improvements in the building, such as repointing stones and installing a new heating system.

“We don’t have a timeline or a budget yet,” Mr. Dalton said. “We need to get some sort of a plan together. For now, we are going to go ahead with this cautiously. With a plan in place, we have a better chance of receiving funding.”

As a registered historic site, any construction changes proposed to the old Town Hall must be approved by the State Historic Preservation Office, Mr. Scott said.

The stone building, erected in 1880s, was built by Isaac Johnson, a stone cutter and freed slave who constructed various structures in St. Lawrence County.

The town board sets aside $20,000 each year for maintenance to the old Town Hall and library, but that is not enough to cover the cost of the proposed improvements, Mr. Scott said.

Last year, the town paid $6,000 to repair the damaged drainage system along the outside of the building.

“It would be a shame to for it to just sit there,” Mr. Dalton said. “It has been proven people will use it. Once it becomes more user-friendly, the number of weddings and parties could increase. For now, anyone with a walking disability can’t access the building or use the restrooms in the basement.”

Anyone interested in making a tax-deductible donation toward the building’s restoration may contact the town office, Mr. Scott said.

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