NEW VINEYARD — Taxpayers must find a way to make town gatherings accessible for handicapped citizens, even if they have to build or buy a new meeting space.

Selectmen hold town meetings in Smith Hall on Route 27 in a cramped first-floor space because the second floor lacks accessibility for disabled residents.

Meetings have been increasingly well-attended, Selectman Fay Adams said, and the building cannot exceed fire-code limits. Floor seating is snug, and the overflow crowd must stand in hallways, making hearing, speaking and voting difficult.

After the March town meeting, resident Douglas Fletcher agreed to lead a committee to explore alternatives, because Smith Hall has no land for expansion. He has gathered several townspeople to begin the process.

Selectmen are inviting residents to Smith Hall at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 10, to review options and make suggestions.

According to Adams, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and fire code limits are not the building’s only problems. The two-story wooden structure on Route 27 needs significant infrastructure repairs, starting with the leaky basement.

“I told people how bad the water problem was down there, and after town meeting in March, they went down to see it for themselves,” she said. “Now I think they believe me.”

That realization has brought several alternatives to the fore.

“We could have town meetings at the fire station behind us, although that’s not an ideal situation,” Adams said. “We also own about 60 acres next to the new cemetery on the transfer station road, so we need to think about whether we want to build something there.”

That land is 2 miles north of town on Route 27, and has space for parking. It might be unacceptable to voters because of its distance from the center of town.

“We need ideas, and we hope people will come to give us suggestions, because we all know we need to do something,” Adams said.

At the March town meeting, selectmen asked taxpayers to approve buying a house and land behind Smith Hall near the fire station, but voters declined to make the decision without exploring other options.


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