Shortly after the 1870 Town Hall re-opened in 2007 activities and events rapidly increased. Currently 10,000 patrons per year cross the threshold to attend over 700 events. The building is used for cultural arts programs, historical presentations, information, art shows and classes. User fees cover a portion of operating costs. Many visitors are challenged by both the granite steps outside and the rounded stairways inside. By 2008 the Town Hall Advisory Committee was discussing accessibility issues. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires we make a reasonable effort to remove barriers and improve access.
Making the 1870 Town Hall accessible is a valuable and worthy investment in an important cultural and historical building in our town center. The Town voted at the May 2016 Town meeting to spend $426,000 from the Highland Commons Cultural Fund to match a possible grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, a program the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, administered through a collaborative arrangement between MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and an additional $100,000 from free cash to fund the project. At that time, based on prior bid estimates prepared in the spring of 2015 and using a 4% inflation escalator, a cost of approximately $850,000 was estimated. Two developments then happened: First, the Mass. Cultural Facilities Grant came through (after the May Town meeting) with a lesser grant of $242,000. While this was a disappointment, the amount was the second highest awarded in Central Mass. Secondly, the expected cost for the project increased by 20% since the original estimate as construction and public works have heated up considerably in Massachusetts. With input from the Town Selectmen, the FinCom and our architect, the Committee scaled back the project to provide a lower bid possibility. Bids were sent out in August. The lowest bid for the reduced project was $873,567 from Antonelli Construction. This project will include a smaller parking area, but will still provide reasonable access to the elevator. This modification allowed us to reduce the bid cost to the town from $1,013,000 to $873,567. The Selectmen then secured an extension of the bid acceptance period to allow a Special Town meeting (November 14) to vote on additional funds of $80,920 which was the shortfall. The Town voted the funds and construction is expected to begin in early April and completed approximately six months later. The support the Town and town boards have given to this project is very much appreciated.
During construction the 1870 Town Hall will be closed to the public. Regularly scheduled classes/events have been relocated next door at First Parish Church. We extend our gratitude to First Parish Church for their willingness to assist by providing hall space/usage to our renters ensuring minimal impact during the construction period.
Please contact any of the Town Hall Committee members if you have any questions. Evy Dueck - EvelynDueck@gmail.com ; Pat Smith - firstname.lastname@example.org ; Bob McTague - email@example.com
Berlin's 1870 Town Hall