By Joe Thorpe

After nearly six months of heavy construction, Cape Cod Community College (4Cs) opened the Fall 2019 semester with a new walkway, compliant with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

With an ultimate cost of $2,582,124, the renovation is the college’s most significant since the 2017 $3.7 million nursing expansion on the lower floor of the North building. The funding for the accessibility project was awarded by the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), who began planning the project in coordination with 4Cs financial and maintenance offices in December of 2017. The construction broke ground in March of 2019 and reached the level of substantial completion after an extended deadline into July.

“[The] original schedule was late June,” said Joe MacKinnon, Director of Facilities Management at 4Cs. “But due to unforeseen conditions, the schedule was extended. There were a lot of unknown walls and structures below the existing ramps that we had that weren’t documented on any aspect drawings. So, they led to some challenges. And, of course, the utilities intermingled into those substructures that have to be worked around very carefully, and in some cases replaced. And, we also added some additional scope to the project.”

To improve accessibility to campus, in phase one of the construction the old entrance path from the Nickerson Administration building, going along the front entrance of the Tilden Arts Center and through to Grossman Commons, was leveled to meet ADA standards of a slope. The construction removed several small sets of stairs along the way. There are also several new handicap accessible parking spaces added to the entrance area, commonly known as the flagpoles.

The second phase is where the path veers into the quad proper, which has been repaved and sloped for easier access to the Wilkens Library.

Phase three repaired the parking lot behind Grossman Commons leading to the WKKL radio station, the Lorusso Technology building, and the Life Fitness Center. Over the summer break, areas of parking lots around the ring road also received damage control that will continue as need is determined.

Additional to the major construction of removing and replacing the walkways, many new guardrails, handrails, benches and trash receptacles have been put in place. The Nickerson Administration building’s lobby has also been remodeled.

A supplemental element of natural landscape beautification featuring plants and stones have been included to the extent that was feasible within the budget after ADA compliance was insured.

“The whole intent behind this project was an accessibility project, right? So, we got a lot of wonderful extra…beautification and improvements…as well. But, the primary goal and the funding for this project was to make this college more accessible for folks with mobility challenges,” said MacKinnon.

Though the significant components of the renovation are complete, there is still a punch list of minor but safety regulated items ongoing. Surveying the new entrance ramp, it may benoticed some guardrails have plastic barriers attached with zip ties, those will be replaced with permanent steel barriers, and the staircase leading from the library and Maureen M. Wilkens Hall (Wilkens South) to the lower-level parking lot was still under completion at the time this article was written.

“[DCAMM] prioritizes the issues by, obviously, impact from volume of mobility challenged individuals… [and] what entrances they might use, what programs they’re using at the college, etc. So, they prioritized, we still have some other work to do here,” said MacKinnon.

That same lower-level parking lot behind Wilkens South was also intended for updating to include increased handicap parking, unfortunately funds from DCAMM were depleted and that aspect has been shelved until an undetermined later date.

The parking lot is just one of four projects in various stages of action to improve accessibility around campus and beyond. Again, in partnership with DCAMM, 4Cs has recently completed a survey of campus restrooms.

“You’re looking at everything from toilet paper, roll heights, to door openers, right?” said MacKinnon. “So, starting at the front of the restroom, how do you get in? Is there an accessible route to the restroom? To when, now, when you’re in the restroom, how can you use the restroom if you have mobility challenges? So, it’s a very detailed survey where you measure everything, toilet, seat heights, grab bars, toilet petition doors, faucets, heights of sinks, everything…We want to pick the ones that need the most attention from a deferred maintenance perspective, because let’s face it, the restrooms are 50 years old, but some of them get utilized a lot more than others.”

4Cs has already been awarded $5.6 million from the state for deferred maintenance around campus. Deferred maintenance refers to what the school’s maintenance staff can achieve without the hiring of outside contractors and architects.

With restrooms being the next project in store for 4Cs renewal and accessibility, improvements to outdoor lighting around campus are currently in the study phase. Lighting will also be a three-tiered project from parking lots, increasing inward to the ring road and finally along campus pathways and other inner campus fixtures. Already, $1 million has been awarded for the lighting project.

Signage is another topic that is currently on the table for the leadership of 4Cs to discuss.

“[T]hat’s another accessibility project we have going on. When you come, and you look at the signs around campus, how do you [know] what’s the best way to get from point A to point B? Even in buildings, what’s the best way to get to certain locations?” said Lisa Kopecky, 4Cs Vice President of Finance and Operations. “So, we actually have done a complete survey of all the signage on campus. We’re working with a design firm in terms of identifying what would be the appropriate signs… And so, as soon as we get the design finalized, then you’ll start to see some signing and signage improvements around campus as well.”

Even with all these physical construction projects going on, the college website is also due for a facelift of sorts to become more inclusive of those with disabilities.

“There are issues with regard to a website that we’re working on,” said Paul Alexander, Associate Vice President of Human Resources. “As I understand it, when it comes to vision, or people who may be hearing impaired and so forth, what are the things that involve making sure that those barriers don’t exist in terms of navigating on our website? We are working actively on that as well, but that involves looking at everything from attachments to documents, and so forth. So, that’s very comprehensive work being done now with our information technology.”

With all of these projects at play, the biggest construction operation the campus awaits is the long-time looming replacement of the Science building. That is going to be a very large project and as such, is also just in the planning stages.

The construction across campus provided plenty of jobs for hardworking construction workers of many different skillsets. 4Cs offers a 17 credit, 6-course Construction Management Certificate designed to impart the skills necessary for supervisor and management roles in the field, including code regulations, project management, and environmental impacts.

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