FULTON – The Fulton Public Library and the Community Development Agency are working to update the Fulton Public Library building to ADA compliant and expand the community room.
According to the library’s director, Caroline Chatterton, the historic building needs the updates to make it safer and accessible to community members with physical disabilities.
“I think we will be able to offer so much more to [the community] by changing the space and making it more adaptable to their needs,” Chatterton said.
Chatterton said they plan to address their emergency exits, which she described as currently treacherous, and widen the stairwells to make sure everyone can get to safety in case of an emergency.
Also, the community room can currently only comfortably hold 15 to 20 people, limiting the room’s possibilities to serve the community of Fulton.
“The community room itself is not set up properly,” said CDA Director Joseph Fiumara. “It has a wall right in the middle of it that doesn’t open it up to an open floor plan and it really doesn’t lend itself to what it could be doing in that room.”
Chatterton said she would like to install a kitchenette, allowing for cooking classes. For other programs, she said she hopes to do free tax seminars for seniors and a memory cafe – a monthly safe social gathering space for people with memory loss, Alzheimers or dementia.
The library approached the CDA a few years ago with hopes to renovate the city owned building but needed the time to estimate the work and costs needed before preparing a grant application through New York State Homes and Community Renewal, according to Fiumara.
Fiumara held a public hearing July 10 to discuss the proposed updates the library plans to do should their grant application be approved. He estimates a need between $150,000 and $220,000 to complete the renovation and is optimistic in the likelihood of being awarded that grant.
“This grant is eligible to public facilities that either continue or start some type of community activities in a space currently available in this public facility,” Fiumara said. “It gives you money for renovations, especially when it comes to increasing the ADA accessibility for the building.”
Fiumara plans to submit the application July 26 and anticipates an answer in late August or early September. However, he does not expect to begin construction until early 2020 due to environmental reviews and other rules.
Among the plans, Fiumara said they intend to widen doorways and make them wheelchair friendly.
Since the library is on the list of the National Register of Historic Places, any change done to the outside of the building must be approved by the New York State Historical Preservation Office to make sure anything done does not take away any historical relevance.
The Fulton Public Library is one of about 2,500 Carnegie libraries in the U.S. and is over 100 years old.
Library Board of Trustees Vice President Patricia Kush said many members of the community use the library as a resource to use the computers, apply for jobs, summer programs for children and income taxes for seniors.
Fifth Ward Common Councilor Dennis Merlino said the Fulton library, which is in his ward, has been a part of his family’s life since he moved to the city. He raised his four sons to learn and grow their computer skills at the library.
“The library is an opportunity for every single person no matter your income, no matter anything about your skills, abilities, what your situation is; the library is just pure opportunity,” Merlino said.