Cambridge council settles on library parking issue solution

People with mobility issues wishing to frequent the Cambridge Public Library will soon have a couple more parking options that the Cambridge City Council hopes will make the new library more inviting for everyone. Following two months of research and discussions that encompassed three council meetings, the council approved on a 4-1 vote to add one ADA compliant handicapped parking spot, plus two courtesy reserved spots to the eastern parking lot. Council member Bob Shogren again cast the lone no vote.

This issue, which was brought to the attention of the council following two letters to the editor complaining about the closest handicapped parking spots being too far away from the library for certain people with mobility issues. The council held a work session on the topic during one of their July meetings, then tabled any action to obtain additional information on the issue during their Aug. 16 meeting. Specifically, they directed staff to find out the exact requirements for ADA compliant handicapped parking spots.

According to Public Works Director Todd Schwab, in order for a parking spot to be enforceable as handicapped, a sign must be posted in front of the spot, plus it must be marked as such on the pavement as well. Originally, the council was considering not putting a sign out of fear it would be repeatedly damaged by vehicles or during snow removal.

Schwab said he also took a closer look at the potential location of the “courtesy” parking spots and decided they could be located on the far eastern row of parking spots, meaning signs could be placed in the grassy area, which would greatly reduce the likelihood of being damaged.

City Administrator Evan Vogel told the council that a discussion with Carla Liden at the library, it was the library staff’s recommendation that the one handicapped spot, plus two courtesy spots would suffice, compared to the four courtesy spots previously mentioned.

After discussion, a motion was made to change one spot in the east lot to be an ADA compliant handicapped spot, a handicapped accessible ramp be cut out of the curb for easier access to the main library doors, plus two “restricted” spaces. The two restricted spaces will simply be labeled as such, with the council leaving library staff to determine and convey the parameters of who was allowed to park in those two spots.

The approximate costs for these changes will be between $1500 - $2000 for the handicapped spot and curb ramp cutout, plus $150 for the two restricted signs.

Costs for Sandquist park expansion higher than expected

Another agenda item that garnered a split vote was for the expansion of Sandquist Park, which was an approved usage of a portion of the local option sales tax revenue. After soliciting bids for the project, which would include an additional softball field, two baseball fields, a multi-use field, and a parking lot, the total cost came in at just over $1 million, which Schwab said was twice as expensive as when Sandquist Park was originally constructed. The maximum amount of money from the sales tax revenue for this project was capped at $750,000.

Schwab said the cost was reduced as much as possible by delaying the lighting of the two unlit softball fields, plus finding some used lighting for the multipurpose field. He added that while the second baseball field was originally part of an alternative bid that could have been rejected to save some money, however dirt at the location for the alternate field would need to be used for fill dirt for the rest of the project, so it didn’t make much sense to not go forward with the second field since it would already be graded. To not use that dirt would require hauling in fill dirt, which is more costly anyway.

Since the project came in over $250,000 over the maximum sales tax revenue amount of $750,000, Finance Director Caroline Moe recommended the city use unspent playground replacement funds from the Park Capital Fund to pay for $208,000 of the overages.

“We have been prefunding playground replacements, so even though they (playground equipment replacement) hasn’t needed to be done yet, we have been funding it,” Moe explained. “(So) we have the cash in the bank already.”

The remaining $82,000 would come from soliciting donations or from a general fund transfer. She also noted if they do draw from the general fund, it would not negatively impact the 2022 levy.

A motion to approve the full expansion of Sandquist Park was approved 3-2, with Shogren and Lisa Iverson voting against.

“I thought when we originally approved this in the beginning, it was understood we wouldn’t be using any city money to go towards this project,” Shogren said. “I understand the estimates came in higher than what we expected, but I have a lot of heartburn on this because we are putting city money into a park that’s not even in city limits.”

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