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Architect Tom O’Brien’s design for the addition to Castleton Free Library that will provide handicapped access via a new elevator.

At its meeting on July 27, the Castleton select board approved a resolution in support of preparing an application to the Vermont Community Development Program for a grant that will help fund an addition to Castleton Free Library that will provide handicapped access.

The grant application is being written by a committee that includes library trustees, representatives from the Friends of the Castleton Free Library, librarians Jan Jones and Mary Kearns and community members.

Library board chair Nancy Mark said: “This is an exciting threshold to have crossed. Many in the community have been hoping for years that the main floor of the library could be made accessible to those facing mobility challenges, and now that goal is in sight.”

The new addition will include a small lobby and an elevator that will provide access to the library’s main floor as well as to the ground floor.

“If you are in a wheelchair or using a walker or are a parent with a stroller, currently we have an automatic door in the back of the library that provides access to the ground floor children’s section,” said Mark. “However, if you want to access the main floor that includes the adult section, reference books and magazines, you have to climb the front steps of the library. If you know the front steps, they’re not insignificant; in fact, they’re pretty formidable.”

The library was built in 1928, long before the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws required full handicap accessibility for public buildings.

The committee worked together through the spring and selected Burlington architect Tom O’Brien from a group of five firms that had submitted proposals.

The committee has since considered numerous designs developed by O’Brien, ultimately selecting the one they presented to the select board.
Previous steps have included meeting with and receiving guidance from Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and being granted a variance by the Development Review Board. Mark also acknowledged the work of Jonas Rosenthal, Castleton’s zoning administrator.

This is not the first time the library board has undertaken a handicap accessibility initiative. In the past, however, the board was unable to generate the funds necessary for the project.

This is now about to change thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Library.

Unbeknownst to many local residents, Denise Nagle, who had spent many summers in Castleton and was both a patron and a volunteer at the library, left a sizable bequest to the Friends.

On May 30 Friends chair Normandie Keller announced that the Friends’ steering committee had voted to pledge the majority of the bequest – $300,000 – toward improving handicapped accessibility to the library.

Other components of the funding package include a $100,000 commitment from the library’s “rainy day” investment account and the hoped-for Vermont Community Development Program grant, which could also be in the amount of $100,000.

“We don’t know if we’ll get the grant from the Vermont Community Development Program,” said Mark, “but one way or another, we’re definitely going to proceed with this important project.”

While O’Brien has provided an estimate of the total project costs, the committee still needs to solicit bids from contractors.

If all goes as planned, construction could begin next spring.

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