The lift on the town Common bandstand will be getting some special attention in the near future.
Selectmen voted unanimously Jan. 24 to allocate funds that would pay for a maintenance company to check it regularly and make sure it’s operating safely.
The decision overrides a Dec. 13 vote taken by selectmen in which they agreed to seek $20,000 from the Community Preservation Committee to build a walkway around the structure for handicapped accessibility.
CPC funds come from a property tax surcharge and can be used to cover historical and land preservation projects, as well as the creation of affordable housing.
A product of the town’s Common Restoration Project in conjunction with the Historical Commission, the bandstand was built in 2008 to replicate a historic one. But under current day requirements, the mechanical freight lift, turned on by a key held at Town Hall, must meet specifications, argued Town Manager Jodi Ross.
“…my primary concern is the safety of the lift,” said Ross. “The second concern is the potential liability to the town by operating a lift that is not deemed safe.”
But Ellen Harde of the Common Restoration Project disagreed, saying a walkway would destroy the historic integrity of the 1861 bandstand replica.
“I’d rather have it not used at all than have the walkway,” Harde said. “(The bandstand) was only supposed to be there as an aesthetic. We never realized that it would be used. In my mind the trade-off would be to make it accessible to no one and put an eighth side on it and have its visual beauty retained.”
The gradual sloping walkway selectmen approved in December, would have surrounded the entire perimeter of the bandstand and ended at the top landing.
Elevators and lifts are governed in Massachusetts by the Department of Public Safety.
“I also maintain that the lift does not have to meet state elevator inspection standards for safety because the Department of Public Safety at a hearing held that I attended…their public safety board ruled in 2008 that the lift is not an elevator. Therefore it does not have to comply with elevator regulations,” said Harde.
Architect and former Selectman Robert Jefferies offered a public comment in support of Harde’s position, noting the current lift is grandfathered to be compliant.
“The reason it’s ok is because it was approved, it’s still operational, it’s still functional. There’s no reason to take it out of compliance,” Jefferies said.
Selectman Mark Kost made the motion.
“I would be ok for the time-being not applying to the CPC,” he said, “however we need a maintenance company to maintain this this thing handily…it’s conditional upon us allocating some money in the budget and finding someone who’s going to do it who would be under the auspices of the town manager.”