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Arts center elevator project is underway

The long-awaited and much-anticipated construction of a handicap access ramp and elevator at Hartselle Fine Arts Center is underway.

The contractor – E-Tech Construction – began digging footings for the foundation last week until a solid layer of rock was encountered and progress had to be delayed temporarily.

“The location of the work site doesn’t leave us with many options,” said a spokesman for the company. “We can’t blast the rock and the small work space limits the size of heavy equipment that can be used. We will be able to bring in a bigger backhoe but may have to rely on the use of hand tools to get the footings to a three-foot depth.”

“We’re so excited to have the project underway,” said Kelly Redmond, art center director. “There are so many benefits to having an elevator. It will not only provide handicap access but will make it so much easier for us to broaden the use of the center and handle the movement of supplies and equipment.”

Redmond pointed out first phase construction will consist of the foundation for the elevator and a ramp that will provide handicap access to the first floor of the building. The cost will be about $136,000.

Phase 2 will provide the elevator, which will give handicap access to the basement, first floor and second floor. It will bring the project’s total cost to about $350,000.

“We continue to seek funding for the elevator phase through fundraisers, grants and private donations,” Redmond pointed out. “We still have people ask why public funds can’t be used to provide the elevator. The answer is simply that the facility is privately leased from the Hartselle School Board. We rely on support from the community to maintain the center.”

Redmond said the target date for completion of first phase construction is early October.

“We’re excited about that and have already made plans for a kickoff celebration,” she stated.

On Oct. 6, the center will present Renaissance, a popular program of vocal, instrumental and drama entertainment produced by Bethel University (Tenn.) faculty and students. The theme will be “Bluegrass Night” and admission will be $5 per person. At the same time, an open house will be observed.

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