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Accessibility work slated for Burnham Hall

LINCOLN — Lincoln has been awarded a $17,600 Community Development Block Grant to make additional accessibility improvements to Burnham Hall.
“We’re delighted that the Vermont Community Development Program awarded us this grant. They’ve helped us before and they’ve continued to help us,” said Mark Benz. Benz spearheaded the grant writing and is a member of the nine-person Walter S. Burnham Committee that oversees the building and will be overseeing the renovations.
The committee began making accessibility improvements to the hall in the 1990s, first installing an elevator. In 2003, they improved the interior restrooms and outside access to the lower level ADA compliant. This current project will improve access through the lower entrance, Benz said.
The two main problems have been pooling ice and a doorsill too steep for wheelchairs to get over easily.
“The walkway was built to the then-published requirements for a handicapped accessible walkway, the right angle, not too steep and so forth,” said Benz. What no one realized was that when snow melted in the winter “all the water would run down the walkway and form a small pond in front of the doorway which would freeze and make lots of ice.”
Work will also eliminate the “bump” at the doorsill that makes getting a wheelchair over the doorsill difficult.
Work has already begun on improving the pedestrian walkway to prevent the formation of ice. This part of the project will include:
•  Modify or replace sidewalk sections.
•  Improving grading to drain rain and snowmelt away from the sidewalk and doorway area.
•  Renovating the stairway that leads to the doorway area.
Later in the fall, work will begin on eliminating the door sill “bump” and other improvements to make the entrance to Lincoln’s polling place more easily accessible to those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility. These improvements include:
•  Improving parking space identification signs.
•  Creating a van-accessible parking space.
•  Identifying a designated drop-off area.
•  Upgrading to an automatic door opener.
The improvements will be completed by next summer, Benz said.
Benz noted the importance of Burnham Hall to the Lincoln community. In addition to being Lincoln’s polling place, Burnham Hall is used for town meeting, a monthly music series, Lincoln Community School sixth grade graduation, public meetings, monthly lunches for seniors and a host of other activities.
Planning is already underway for a 2019 celebration of the building’s first hundred years.
Benz said the building first opened sometime in the early 1920s, but that locals date its beginnings to the 1919 will of Walter S. Burnham, a local man who “grew up in Lincoln and went West to make his fortune — ‘west’ being Cleveland, Ohio.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at gaenm@addisonindependent.com.

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