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Waddington revisits grant request for wheelchair access

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WADDINGTON — The Town Council intends to revisit a state grant application to fund a wheelchair access lift outside the former 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 structure, 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.

Town officials have been working to construct handicapped access to the building since a 2011 conditions assessment review identified it as a major deficiency.

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 whether to hire an architect to re-examine 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 repairing stones and installing a new heating system.

“We don’t have a time line 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 the 1880s, was built by Isaac Johnson, a stone cutter and freed slave who constructed various structures in St. Lawrence County.

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