Norwalk Museum move authorized as handicapped availability is debated

Norwalk Museum  006-20130323
The old Norwalk Museum site wasn’t exactly handicapped accessible, city officials said last week. It was closed in May 2012. Most of the contents are now in the process of being moved and will take up residence on the City Hall property this fall. The archives are now available at the Norwalk Public Library.

NORWALK, Conn. – Issues of handicap accessibility were raised last week in the approval of a “$1 million contract” for the Norwalk Museum’s new home at the Lockwood House.

Much of the museum’s collection will move into the Lockwood House, on the City Hall property, this fall after the Norwalk Fire Department administration moves out, and into the new fire house on Connecticut Avenue. But Councilman Fred Bondi (R-at large) said the costs of making it American Disability Act compliant hadn’t been figured in to the 10-year contract, which he said was “quite long.”

Bondi figured the contract was worth $1 million after adding the $84,000 a year in anticipated city funding to cover the Norwalk Historical Society’s costs in running the museum to the $25,000-a-year cost of maintaining the archives now available to the public in the Norwalk Public Library.

He also said he thinks making the Lockwood House ADA compliant would be $200,000.

Finance Director Thomas Hamilton said moving the musuem’s collection out of its prior home at 41 North Main St. would save the city at least $1.5 over the 10 years.

“Just the lease payments for the building itself amounted to $138,000 a year, that doesn’t cover the curatorial expenses,” he said. “This is a more financially advantageous way for the city to make this collection available to the public.”

Hamilton expects the ADA issue to cost about $50,000 initially, the cost of making the existing ramp to the Lockwood House’s first floor ADA-compliant. A decision to provide access to the second floor and the basement would come at a later date, he said.

That $50,000 had been unexpected; Hamilton found out that day that the ramp did not meet code. He said the money could come out of the $250,000 authorized in the 2013-2014 capital budget for ADA improvements, as requested by Human Relations Director Adam Bovilinsky.

City buildings will have to become ADA compliant anyway, Mayor Richard Moccia and others said. Moccia added that the federal government gives municipalities time to become ADA compliant. The city will put money into the capital budget because it has to, he said.

In 1991, the ADA imposed a requirement that municipalities perform a self-evaluation and create a transition plan to meet the requirements of the law. Bovilinsky had requested $1.5 million in the 2013-2014 capital budget, saying there had been no plan over the past 20 years to become ADA compliant, which could cost the city money if someone decided to sue or if the Department of Justice took legal action.

Moccia said the new space for the museum will be more accessible than the old space no matter what happens.

“It was a little hard to navigate around that place for anybody anyway because it was cluttered all over the place,” he said.

Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-District D) had a similar comment in regard to the archives location in the old space.

“If you had allergies or asthma you shouldn’t have gotten near the place in the first place,” he said.

The archives will ultimately become digital and be available to computer users all over the world via the Internet.

“When a city makes its history available to the world, that’s a big moment in the life of that city,” Kimmel said. “I’m really proud of what’s happened. I’m looking forward to using the archives a lot more.”

Moccia said the archives have already gotten “tremendous” use at the library, where it is available every day, a contrast from its lack of availability at 41 North Main St.

“When we were talking about closing the old museum it was gloom and doom and the world would end as we knew it,” he said. “Now we’re moving into a new phase, trying to accommodate both the citizenry, our taxpayers and accessibility. That takes a while.”

Bondi was the only council member to vote against the contract.

He had another objection to the terms set out.

“The curator gets a parking space with her name on it,” he said. “I thought that was only reserved for the mayor and the school superintendent. Lots of people can’t get a parking space. No council parking. I have asked for that for many years.”

Term Sheet – Collection Care

Lockwood House Term Sheet


One response to “Norwalk Museum move authorized as handicapped availability is debated”

  1. NorwalkVoter

    Yes Mr. Bondi, it is always about you. Some things never change.

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