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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CHICOPEE – Since, Monday, May 13, 2019, Chicopee City Hall has been limited by the lack of an elevator that is expected to be replaced by October 2019. The process is now in the intermediate stages of design for the full modernization of the existing unit, which has lasted over 40 years in the City Hall Annex. The original lift, circa 1929, was first replaced in the late 1960s, making this the second total replacement.
A well-maintained elevator should last anywhere between 15 and 20 years; however, depending on the type of elevator application, certain major parts might need to be changed in the interim. According to a recent article1, more than 4,500 elevators in the state do not comply with inspection requirements and the wait time for inspections is increasingly delayed. These are just a few of the reasons prompting the decision to replace the old elevator and doing so quickly.
"This was a difficult decision because of the age of this elevator," said Lee Pouliot, Director of Planning & Development. "The necessary parts are no longer available, and everything is going to have to be brought up to today's standards."
To meet modern state safety standards, the safety upgrades will include the addition of Blind Access. Blind Access is a voice command system, designed to make public buildings accessible to, functional for, and safe for use by persons with disabilities. The upgrades will also include an updated security system together with backup power, an emergency access phone, and cameras in the cab, ensuring the safety and security of its passengers. There was also the removal of ancient equipment leftover from the original elevator, which no longer complies with regulations.
The city recently received a $250,000 Municipal Accessibility Grant from the Massachusetts Office on Disability to cover half the costs of replacing the elevator. The project, with a $503,330 price tag, was bid out to R.A.C., as the general contractor. This grant was the stepping off point of the project, as it required the project to begin before the funds would get distributed.
"If we had to shut it down early to get assistance for almost half the cost, then it was the right thing to do," Mayor Kos said of the early start. "I hope they won't have to worry about replacing it again for another 40 or 50 years."
The modernization process will include the removal and replacement of the existing cab, jacks, HVAC, as well as the installation of new split state circuitry. These replacements will result in a more dependable and energy efficient elevator service. The masonry inside the elevator shaft will also be appropriately repaired, repointed, or replaced.
Project Manager/Site Representative of N|V|5, Robert L. Alger oversees the elevator replacement project. Alger stated the replacement project was challenging because it is a custom elevator cab, set in an old shaft, which requires masonry work. The challenge is the cabs are not prefabricated and require a minimum of 18 weeks lead time to build.
"There wasn't an elevator like this one just sitting on the shelf somewhere," said Alger. "Elevator cabs are first, built on paper, presented and approved, physically built and tested for safety standards, disassembled, brought on site, and then rebuilt in the existing shaft." Alger continued, "It is not just one step. There are many steps involved."
The City Council, whose meetings were displaced, were not the only public body who felt the impact. Many City Hall staff have noticed a slowing down of business. However, not many are complaining. "When hiking up a mountain recently, I noticed my breathing had much improved," laughed Kristen Pope, Senior Clerk of the fourth-floor Planning Department. "It's when I knew climbing the stairs every day was actually working in my favor!"
When entering City Hall, signs indicate that the elevator is temporarily out-of-service. The first floor offices are still available from the 274 Front Street handicap accessible entrance. Patrons who are unable to utilize the stairs, seeking access to the second, third, and fourth-floor offices, are advised to call ahead. They can visit the Human Resources Department, and special arrangements will be made to have upstairs offices come to them on the first floor.
1Greg Ryan (2019, June 24). Risk on the rise Business Monday/The Republican