Four days before citizens were to get their first look at the new venue at Annual Town Meeting, Building Inspector Richard MacDonald has refused to issue a temporary occupancy permit specifically for the event.
At Wednesday’s school committee meeting, Business Manager Mickey McGonagle made the announcement that Town Meeting will be held at Duxbury Middle School as it has for years given the lack of a permit.
“The good news is that our building adventure is coming to a close and that the Performing Arts Center is complete and available for occupancy,” he said. “The bad news is that the building inspector won’t give us a permit.”
McGonagle said that the specific issue leading to the denial was handicapped accessibility and the opinion of a consultant hired by the town to look at these issues. Acknowledging that there were “minor issues” that could have been fixed in time for the meeting, McGonagle said that the particular issue at hand was a handicapped accessible ramp that was one inch too steep that the consultant felt didn’t meet building code regulations.
“We promised that the building we built would be compliant with the law and it is and it will be,” he said.
McGonagle added that to his knowledge, the ramp would have to be “jackhammered” and reconstructed.
On Thursday, MacDonald said that in his opinion, there were more issues than simply the ramp that lead to his decision not to issue the temporary occupancy permit.
“I was given a report from a consultant we hired with a number of access issues and determined that the permit could not be issued,” he said.
MacDonald added that there were specific issues regarding the handicapped accessibility that were part of state building codes and “these had to be met for the permit to be issued.”
“I’m comfortable with my decision,” he said. “My obligation is to the town of DuxburyÖit is my job to interpret state building codes. I am the only one in town to interpret these and that’s what I am doing. These corrections have to be made and we will get together with the [building’s] contractor and work on getting an occupancy permit.”
As for the reconstruction of the ramp, MacDonald said that he assumed rebuilding it was the only way to go, but said the key is that it has to be corrected.
Selectmen Chairman Betsy Sullivan said Thursday that the decision to have the gathering at the building came months ago by selectmen and others with the understanding that the building would be finished before Town Meeting was held. She added that despite that fact, she would rather see the building safe than have it rushed to be ready for Saturday.
“Sometimes, when you put a big push on something, you regret the haste, she said. “I’d just as soon have it done right and under budget ñ which it is. As long as you’re doing it, do it right.”
Sullivan added that the town has had successful town meetings at DMS for years and that her thoughts are more on Saturday’s business than where it is held.
“I’ve got too much on my mind with the actual Town Meeting,” she said. “My focus is on the meeting and the business we have to conduct.”
To accommodate the venue change, which has already been advertised, signs are being placed around town to notify citizens.
According to Town Moderator Allen Bornheimer, he was consulted on the location and also told it would be ready in time for the gathering.
He added that at least part of the meeting will occur at the Performing Arts Center because of the previous advertisement.
“The town clerk and I plus a couple of voters will go over to the center at 9 a.m., where I’ll call the meeting to order,” said Bornheimer. “I’ll then entertain a motion to recess to [DMS], where we’ll reconvene. I’ll do the same with the Special Town Meeting at 9:10 a.m. and explain it to voters.”
Bornheimer said that while he has never had to personally do this, it is not an uncommon occurrence.
“Sometimes [towns] realize they need more room than where they advertised the meeting for and do this to change locations,” he said.
Annual Town Meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Duxbury Middle School.