City council has been asked to spend $100,000 to install an elevator at city hall to make the building fully accessible.
The money would come from the Land Sale Reserve Fund and would help with an accessibility fund the city has applied for.
Port Alberni City Hall was built in 1959 during a period when providing disability access was not a part of the primary building consideration.
“The split level design of our facility has challenged us in order to provide that sort of access,” Jake Martens, deputy city clerk for the City of Port Alberni, told council at a July 11 meeting.
“We have many people come to city hall either in wheelchairs or with strollers or general mobility issues who struggle to gain access to this building.”
City staff have identified a grant opportunity through the Enabling Accessibility Fund that would cover part of the cost of installation.
The Enabling Accessibility Fund is a federal grants and contributions program that supports capital costs of construction and renovations related to improving physical accessibility and safety for people with disabilities in Canadian communities and workplaces.
“This grant has not been available for a number of years. For whatever reason, it’s now available so we’re just bringing this request forward, but ideally it would come through the budget process,” Martens said.
The deadline for grant applications is July 26.
“We’re requesting your commitment to advance the grant application and make that commitment from the Land Sale Reserve Fund,” Martens said.
There is currently $190,000 unobstructed in the Land Sale Reserve Fund and Martens said an exact quote on how much installation would cost is still pending.
The elevator is envisioned to be installed in the front foyer at city hall, occupying half a stairwell and taking over a utility closet upstairs.
“During the property tax time there were quite a number of people who were challenged trying to get into city hall to pay their taxes and it was difficult to watch that,” Mayor Mike Ruttan said.
Councillor Ron Paulson added that spending $100,000 on installing an elevator would take that money away from going towards something else, to which Ruttan responded by saying the city shouldn’t “balance the book” on the backs of those who are disabled.
“I also want for us to remember that we made a commitment in terms of the $250,000 keeping it reserved in the event that we have to buy back the plywood site,” Ruttan said. “It all fits in that big jigsaw we call a budget so I’m sure we can make it fit.”