Officials remain split on Waveny House elevator, renovations
Updated 11:00 am, Tuesday, April 24, 2018
NEW CANAAN — In mid-March, the Town Council was divided on whether or not to support a $1 million project for Waveny House renovations. A month later, the council remains split.
“I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with our First Selectman Kevin Moynihan (to support the $1 million bond resolution). This project is 28 years overdue and it’s waited long enough,” Councilman Jim Kucharczyk said at the Town Council meeting Thursday evening.
Waveny House, which can be rented as a venue for weddings and other social events, currently does not have restrooms that abide by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed by Congress in 1990. Officials are concerned that the town could be held liable and face potential lawsuits from the Department of Justice or private law firms for discriminating against individuals with disabilities.
The $1 million bond resolution includes the “installation of a conveying system” and “ADA improvements to the restrooms and the installation of accessible routes” of the Waveny House. A birdcage elevator, faithful to a 1900s style and with a price tag of $500,000, has been suggested to fit with the house’s historic look.
“I feel there are other options than installing a birdcage elevator. It’s very expensive and I think it would ruin the historical value of the building,” council member Cristina Ross said.
Council member Christa Kenin, who has also served on the Waveny House Committee and the Building Use Committee, was concerned if an elevator was necessary at all.
“How are we using the building in the end? I don’t think there’s enough going on in the second floor to justify the elevator,” Kenin said.
Other Town Council members inquired about possible changes regarding the use of the Waveny House if renovations were to take place but the majority agreed that ADA-compliance is the foremost issue.
“I want an enhanced social use of the building but it requires ADA compliance by law,” Moynihan, who attended the Town Council meeting, said.
The Board of Finance approved the recommendation to bond for this item April 17 but the Town Council will issue its vote on the project May 16.
When Town Council Chairman John Engel asked about the number of members who had objections on approving the bond resolution, at least six members of the council raised their hands. If a tie were to occur on the day of the decision, the First Selectman can cast the tie-breaking vote.
Engel, who pressed on the specificity of the Waveny House project, brought up the budget overruns of the high school fields project that was originally scheduled to be completed last summer but is just now in the final phases. That project went $800,000 over an initially estimated $5.8 million budget.
“We got a lot of heat when we didn’t ask for that kind of specificity on the fields project and we pledged that we would be very careful going forward,” Engel said.