Update on Accessibility Projects

Currently, a lot of work is being done behind the scenes on the accessibility projects, but since it won’t be visible for a little while, I thought I’d unofficially share my perspective on how the accessibility projects have unfolded since the February Congregation meeting. Please look for official reports in the annual book of reports available for the June Congregation Meeting.

In February, the Accessibility Steering Committee (ASC) took numerous groups of people on tours of the upcoming project and answered many questions. Then, at the February Congregation Meeting, the ASC also answered a few more questions, which resulted in a number of supportive and concerned parishioners thinking and talking in the weeks following the meeting. One recurring concern was the high expense and how to fund it, and the other was that only 62% of the building would be accessible for the expense.

In response, Council held a joint Saturday meeting with Property and Facilities Planning in order to reflect upon and discuss the direction of the accessibility project, and we came to an unexpected consensus with an unofficial vote. There were two main concerns raised:

  • That we take great care not to burden the congregation with an expense it might not be able to meet in the future, given the slow decline in membership at SMLC (especially in the context of greatly declining membership in congregations across the NJ Synod).
  • That we look into seeing if it is worthwhile to modify the current plans for Projects 1abc in order to increase the building’s overall accessibility.

In short, could we do it differently, gain more and spend less? The group debated this passionately, given all of the work that has already gone into Projects 1abc.

At the next regular Council meeting, the decision was ratified to look at alternatives for increasing our accessibility, while being very mindful of total expenses. In addition, there was strong concern voiced by Facilities Planning to ensure restrooms near the sanctuary. They also shared they were currently looking at a modified plan in which restrooms and sacristy could be on the sanctuary level, but perhaps cost less than 1abc.

So, although you might not see action happening at the moment – it is! The Facilities Planning team continues to work on increasing accessibility by creating a modified plan that might even decrease the overall expense.