North Adams gets OK to fix public safety building's leaky roof

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NORTH ADAMS — After months of delay, the city can move forward with repairs to the leaking roof of its public safety building.

This month, the city received the necessary variances from handicap-accessibility requirements as it looks to replace the porous roof above the North Adams Police and Fire departments as quickly as possible.

The state's Architectural Access Board, which enforces compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, had initially denied the city's variance request earlier this year, halting the work before it began.

The city now can move ahead but must report to the board on the progress it makes in improving accessibility at the building.

"We've reached out to the contractor who, even though it's outside of the 60 days they were required to hold their price, has agreed to honor it," City Administrative Officer Michael Canales told the City Council on Tuesday.

The cost of the roof repair project exceeded 30 percent of the building's overall value, triggering regulations that the entire building — constructed in the 1950s — be brought up to modern accessibility standards.

"The roof project or the need to do the roof triggered the review of other issues. Doing the roof doesn't resolve the issues we were requesting a variance from, so we need to speak a little more clearly to how we will remediate some of those issues," Mayor Thomas Bernard told The Eagle on Wednesday.

The city will have to keep the Architectural Access Board up to date on accessibility improvements as it makes them.

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"What they don't want to have happen is 10 years from now us coming back and asking for another variance on a building we've done nothing to," Canales said.

Some variances to accessibility standards can be addressed, Canales said, and the city is analyzing how to do so in a cost-effective way. One example, Canales said, could be having certain forms of permitting — such as permits for smoke detectors — done at City Hall instead of the public safety building.

The first reporting deadline is in 90 days.

"After that, we'll be working with the AAB moving forward," Canales said.

Last November, the City Council approved borrowing $351,000 to pay for the replacement of the main section of the roof and two alternate sections.

The roof has deteriorated to such a degree that buckets catch steady rainfall in a firefighter's bunkroom, and large tarps have been erected elsewhere in the building to divert water directly out of windows.

The city addressed damage to the building's ceiling through its insurer last year. But given that the roof leaks persist, large sections of ceiling have been removed but will not be replaced until the roof above is fortified.

Since introducing the roof project proposal, Bernard has maintained that the city will continue to look for a long-term solution for its public safety departments, be it in the form of a new building or renovation of the existing structure.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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