|Pittsfield Disabilities Panel Reviews Access to Venues|
|By Joe Durwin, Pittsfield Correspondent|
03:21PM / Friday, July 13, 2012
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city's Commission on Disabilities examined the status of accessibility at a variety of new and existing businesses and other buildings throughout the city, including some major advances in ADA code compliance.
The Berkshire Museum has received a grant of $176,750 from the state Cultural Facilities Fund to increase handicapped accessibility.
The commission expressed enthusiasm for a newly awarded $176,750 state grant that will allow renovations to bring the Berkshire Museum completely into compliance with current accessibility codes. The grant is part of $5 million from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund for building projects by arts organizations, announced by Gov. Deval Patrick last week.
These changes include a new, modern elevator to replace the antiquated and problematic one the museum currently has, as well as the installation of a small ramp which will increase the accessibility of the basement aquarium area.
Berkshire Museum Director Van Shields had met with the commission at its April meeting to discuss the remaining obstacles to full accessibility, and its members expressed approval with the rapidity with which Shields, who took over the museum in the fall, had been working to secure funding for these projects.
"He's doing what he said he would," said Gerald Garner, "which is a nice change."
Commission members plan to meet with management for the Beacon Cinema to follow up on some observations from a recent visit including making sure staff are properly trained to accomodate patrons with a variety of disabilities. Commission Chairwoman June Hailer said that they had found most Beacon staff to be knowledgeable and helpful, but had generated a few suggestions to offer the theater on accessibility and navigation.
The committee also reviewed the accessibility of two new restaurants in the Allendale sector of Pittsfield: the Japanese restaurant Koto and Five Guys burger franchise. Koto, which opened in June in the building formerly occupied by Panda Inn, is completely code compliant, according to Gerald Garner, who sits on the commission as building commissioner. Garner said there was no update yet on inspections for a planned Five Guys franchise slated to open this summer at 660 Merrill Road, in the former Falcetti Music location in the Stop & Shop Plaza, indicating that undisclosed "issues" have lead to some delay.
In other news:
• The commission continues to explore changes and new additions to its body. The concept of adding some type of non-voting youth members was discussed, following an informative presentation by Pittsfield High student Keenan Provencher at its last meeting. Potential appointment to replace an upcoming vacancy as well as prospects for wait listing for future membership on the commission.
• The commission's most recent appointee, Richard O'Connor, was notably absent, despite the presence of an interpreter supplied by the city. O'Connor was appointed to the commission at the June 26 meeting of the City Council, and the city has secured a paid interpreter for him to attend meetings beginning in July, at a cost of $250 per meeting.
• Progress has been slow with efforts to repaint key crosswalks throughout the city, said City Engineer Matthew Billeter. There have been delays in repainting priority intersections because of the busy schedule of the company contracted to do the work, which is one of only two in Massachusetts that specialize in this. The eventual goal is incremental repainting of all city crosswalks. Future crosswalks will not be painted red, Billeter noted, like those done throughout downtown in 2011.
"That was something the previous mayor wanted for the 250th," Billetter told the commission, and will not be continued.