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Town Hall has open door policy

AAB grants front door OK

May 25, 2011
STURBRIDGE — After several months of confusion involving the front doors at Town Hall, the Board of Selectmen has been authorized by the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (AAB) to open the doors to the public on the condition that the board will submit a variance application to the AAB for the Town Hall in June.

AAB Executive Director Thomas Hopkins reached out to Sturbridge officials earlier this month after reading inaccurate information that had derived from several sources, including the Town Hall architect. Upon hearing Hopkins' concerns, Board of Selectmen Chairman Thomas Creamer invited him to attend last Monday's board meeting and inform town officials about AAB regulations pertaining to the Town Hall front doors. At the meeting, Hopkins provided the Board with six examples of other towns in the state that dealt with a similar issue as the one in Sturbridge, and in each town a variance request was approved by the AAB.

"On behalf of the Board of Selectmen and the residents of Sturbridge, I extend our heartfelt thanks to the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board and, in particular, Executive Director Tom Hopkins, for their willingness to work with the town in seeking resolution to this issue," Creamer said.

One of the most important pieces of information Hopkins provided the Board last Monday night involved the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to Hopkins, the ADA only requires 50 percent of a public building's entrances to be handicapped-accessible, not 100 percent as had previously been stated by the architect and other individuals. The board had been reluctant to direct the front doors to be opened for the last three months, largely due to this fallacy that all entrances must be handicap accessible in order to meet ADA requirements. It is actually the Massachusetts Building Code that requires all entrances to be handicap accessible.

For more on this story, please see tomorrow's Southbridge Evening News.

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