Town officials on Tuesday approved a $750,000-plus contract with a Ridgefield-based company to create ADA-compliant entrances to Waveny House.
The work is to include a new sidewalk leading to the west porch of the public building, new doorway there and raising of the “loggia” by the balcony out back, as well as upgrades to a fire escape along the side of the brick mansion, home to two municipal departments and site of special events.
An existing ramp that runs up to the west porch “was not compliant,” according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann.
“So the thought was to change that grade, make it more of a sidewalk, no longer a ramp, and slope it into the western porch, and then change the access through the doors there into the building,” Mann told members of the Board of Selectmen at their regular meeting, held via videoconference. “Through our code consultant it was determined that we needed access out onto the loggia on the back porch. And then our fire marshal determined that we needed some upgrades due to the nature of the work that we were doing, to the existing fire escape leading from the second floor down to the back patio.”
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan and Selectmen Kathleen Corbet and Nick Williams voted 3-0 in favor of the $777,992 with Alden Bailey Restoration.
Various town bodies for years have studied and made recommendations on capital improvements to Waveny House.
In the past, town officials have described a multi-year project expected to cost $2.8 million that include creation of ADA-compliant bathrooms and installation of an elevator so that disabled people could access Waveny’s second floor, where the Parks & Recreation Department is located.
Yet it remains unclear just how New Canaan will use Waveny House long-term or whether the town can create revenue streams there beyond the roughly $100,000 to $140,000 generated annually through renting it out for events such as weddings.
The question of Waveny House’s long-term future use remains open—so that the bathroom and elevator work, originally thought to be the first two of three phases, are on hold—but whatever happens, the ADA compliance work will need to be done, Mann said.
“We were faced with the fact that we were looking at what to do with the building and usage issues as far as the building goes,” he said. “The common denominator through the entire thing is that whatever we determine to do with Waveny House, we need access in and around the building. So the thought was to take that set of work which, was the third set of work, and to bring it to the forefront to allow us to get in and around the building. And then we can determine what the overall usage might be at Waveny House. But regardless of that, we still need to get in and around. This will help us as well with our accessibility issues in the house and anything complaints that we might have from the Department of Justice.”
The firm hired to do the work successfully replaced the roof at Waveny House several years ago, Mann said.
“They did a fantastic job, know the building very, very well,” he said.
Funding for the work is contained in a previous town-approved allocation, Mann said.
Corbet asked when the work at Waveny House would start. Bill Oestmann, superintendent of buildings in the Department of Public Works, said much depends on how quickly materialized are secured. Oestmann said he would like to have the work finished in April.