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Council chamber ADA upgrades
Tony Gomes of Diede Construction makes his way out of the new entrance to the Manteca City Council chambers. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The burnt orange seats — once trendy in the early 1980s when the Manteca Civic Center was built — are gone.

So are the sloping floor, the step up to the council dais, as well as the east and west entrances to the council chambers.

Work though is running behind schedule for the $475,300 project to make the chambers American Disabilities Act compliant.

One of the reasons is city staff was surprised to discover that California has its own set of disability standards that in some cases are much stricter than the federal ADA rules.

McLaughlin said that is why the city had to have Diede Construction build a new custom dais for the council as well as a new podium for speakers as they could not find any readymade ones that met both the latest state and federal requirements.

Some unexpected roof problems were discovered that also have slowed down progress. There was also an issue of wallpaper on the bricks that had been blocked from view that had to be removed. The walls also were in need of a washing before they could be painted.

McLaughlin said the council committee overseeing the upgrade has been putting pressure on staff to just do the basics and keep costs down.  But in cases where the city “could do the job right” and not have to come back in a few years and do additional work, the council members have opted to move forward.

It means the next council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 14, won’t be taking place in the refurbished chambers as originally planned. Instead it will take place at the nearby Manteca Senior Center. The upgrades now have a Jan. 31 completion date.

The council had originally wanted to keep the 70 plus chairs that the audience uses. But if they did they would be out of compliance with new ADA standards. Chairs that essentially can be hooked together like a long string of Legos to form rows are being used instead.

That’s because new ADA standards frown upon permanent seating so the configuration can be easily changed if there is a larger number of people in wheelchairs that need to be accommodated.

Diede Construction of Woodbridge has gutted the council chambers and leveled the sloping floor.

Instead of two entrances — one of the west side and the other on the east side — there is now one main entrance facing the south.

The new entrance includes wider doors that open automatically with a push of a button.

The older doorways have been sealed off to allow for storage as well as a new high-low water fountain to accommodate the handicapped.

An access ramp complete with handrail will lead to the dais to accommodate staff members or elected leaders who may be handicapped. That required the new U-shaped dais to be moved forward slightly.

Improvements have already been made to the parking lot with access ramps and handrails installed.

When combined with the technology upgrades and paperless agenda management system that has been partially finished, the cost of the overall upgrade will top $700,000.

Some $819,000 has been budgeted for the project. That includes $294,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds that can be spent on making public facilities handicapped accessible. The balance is being covered using public facilities fees collected from growth.

The outdated 25-year-old sound system was replaced last year.

State-of-the-art video equipment has been put in place to enhance the cable presentation as well as the live streaming over the Internet of meetings. Stationary cameras are being used instead of ones that must be moved to allow for one operator to effectively run the entire system and provide proper feed to cable and web audiences.

 Five multi-media screens have been installed for council and the audience to follow along with visual presentations. Staff is still working is on a system to allow the council and staff follow agenda reports on items being discussed using laptops or tablets.

Plans called for wiring areas outside the chambers in hallways to allow overflow crowds to listen and see what is going on inside. In the past such as during the cantankerous meetings over the Big League Dream sports complex when it was originally proposed for Woodward Park as many as 70 people had to try to follow what was going on inside by crowding around one TV monitor set up in the open hallway.