A unanimous Oro Valley Town Council has directed staff to pursue installation of a conventional elevator within a lowered front entryway at the Oro Valley Community and Recreation Center.

This solution to access for people with disabilities has an estimated cost of $1.75 million. Council has budgeted $1.5 million for the project.

The March 1 decision drew immediate praise from at least one resident who has called for better accommodation.

“The physically challenged people in our community will now have a facility they can easily use,” resident Jim Horn said in email. “Seniors will now feel comfortable entering and leaving the building...It was a long time in coming, too long, too many missed opportunities, but that’s behind us now, and many physically challenged people will feel a sense of relief that the new entrance will be finished.”

For years, people with physical challenges have used a side ramp, walking or rolling past garbage dumpsters to access the building, which was the El Conquistador Country Club before the town bought it in 2015. Inside, those guests have encountered further obstacles to reach the bar, restaurant, golf, meeting space and other facilities.

“This is the only option to finally provide a respectable ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) access,” Councilmember Steve Solomon said of the proposal. “It’s long overdue, and money well spent.”

In November, staff heard “loud and clear from council” its desire to install a standard elevator at the community center, public works director Paul Keesler said. At that time, council asked staff to explore alternatives. Keesler returned with cost estimates for a conventional elevator as well as a “LULA,” a limited use/limited application elevator that is a hybrid between a commercial elevator and a wheelchair lift. One or two people can ride a LULA at any given time.

There is “overwhelming preference for an (conventional) elevator,” Keesler understood. “It boils down to a matter of cost.”

Breckenridge Group Architects Planners identified four solutions, two with conventional elevators, two with LULAs. Each mode was priced for installation within the existing entrance level, as well as within a lowered entrance. Currently, everyone must climb at least one flight of stairs to get into the main section of the building.

A conventional elevator within the existing entrance was estimated at $1.25 million. The two LULA options were $750,000 within the current entrance level, and $1.35 million at a lowered level. “I know it was not a preference of council,” Keesler said of the LULA. That said, a LULA “fits neatly in the building.”

When Keesler finished his presentation, Vice Mayor Melanie Barrett quickly moved to proceed with the $1.75 million option for a conventional elevator within a lowered front entrance. Councilmember Josh Nicolson seconded.

Councilmember Dr. Harry “Mo” Greene II said he met with wheelchair tennis players. One told him, “When I bring a date here and come up to the community center,” he must enter via the ramp past the trash receptacle. That takes time. Greene said that individual was also discouraging of the LULA option. “You want to be able to go up the elevator with others,” he said.

In the $1.75 million preferred alternative, the community center’s entrance and facade would be lowered, providing walk-in access to all. The elevator would be installed near that entry, with a stop at all three floor levels. Existing stairs will be relocated. The elevator would penetrate the existing roof; architectural treatment would soften its exterior appearance. ADA parking will be added at the building’s entrance.

With council’s consent, Keesler plans to “give the architect a push to move forward” with a specific design. Permitting, and a call for bids would likely occur in July, with a contract award and perhaps the start of construction in August. It would take 6-9 months to build.

The Oro Valley Community and Recreation Center is located at 10555 N. La Canada.

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