Ninety years ago the American Disabilities Act wasn’t around.
There were less than 1,000 residents in the City of Manteca.
And the city had just completed its new two-story brick City Hall in the 100 block of Sycamore Avenue at a cost of $20,000.
Fast forward to today. The council chambers that is part of the Civic Center — Manteca’s second city government complex at 1001 W. Center St. that opened in 1978 — have been remodeled at a cost approaching $700,000.
Most of the work was to make the public meeting facility compliant with the latest ADA standards for handicapped access. About a quarter of the cost was for upgrading the aging audio and video systems that first went into operation 26 years ago.
The chambers now serve a council that conducts city business on behalf of 72,000 residents.
That council on Tuesday rededicated the updated council chambers.
Mayor Willie Weatherford likes how the changes that involved getting rid of the sloping floor to make access easier for people that are handicapped have also made it less imposing for people to go up to the podium to address the council.
“We hope this is much friendly (for residents).” Weatherford said of the new layout.
Councilwoman Debby Moorhead echoed the mayor’s sentiments.
“These guys are scary,” Moorhead said in referencing speaking to the council from the citizens’ podium prior to being elected to the council herself.
By scary, she meant how they were elevated much higher than the podium and also were farther away.
Moorhead along with Vince Hernandez served on the council subcommittee that oversaw the design and equipping of the remodeled chambers.
The improvements were completed last month. There was one new thing on Tuesday, however. A large replica of the City of Manteca seal in muted earth tone hues instead of the traditional red, white and blue has been mounted on the wall directly behind the mayor.
Now that the work is finished it means:
• handicap access now meets all federal and state requirements from the parking lot to the speaker’s podium.
• those in the audience plus those watching via Comcast Channel 97 are able to clearly hear the council conducting the public’s business.
• the audience is able to view documents that are presented to the council via various flat screens.
u in the event of overflow crowds those standing in the hallways will be able to hear what is going on inside the council chambers.
And when the city completes implementing a paperless agenda system the public can download council documents and follow along on tablets and portable computers.
When the original city hall was completed in the early part of 1924, Manteca could fit all of the city’s office needs in less space than in today’s council chambers and the two conference rooms that are in the same complex.
The 52- by 84-foot building not only housed the city clerk and city marshal offices on the first floor but also the post office along with the city jail and fire engine. The second floor was designed for council chambers as well as the dormitory and club room for the fire department. Even at that, there was space left over to initially lease four rooms to the San Joaquin County Health Department.
As far as being handicapped friendly, the second-floor council chambers in the old City Hall were only accessible by stairs.