Whately library trustees want to make accessibility improvements

  • The S. White Dickinson Memorial Library in Whately ​​​FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/11/2019 12:10:25 AM

WHATELY — Robert M. Duda left $200,000 to the S. White Dickinson Memorial Library in Whately when he died in February 2017.

Now, the library’s trustees want to get the first disbursement of that money to finance a feasibility study to make the building handicap accessible. The trustees have received a required letter of agreement from Margo Jones of Jones Whitsett Architects in Greenfield, the firm that will conduct the study for $7,500, and work could begin in the coming weeks.

Duda, a former trustees chairman, bestowed the money to the library because he loved the building at 202 Chestnut Plain Road. The trustees must now forward Jones’ letter to the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, which trustee Sheila Powers said will review the trustees’ request before disbursing the money for the study. Jones predicts that process will take about three months.

The trustees met Tuesday in the basement community room, which was named after Duda about a year ago.

In her letter, Jones states the trustees want to bring the library into compliance with the state Architectural Access Board’s rules and regulations.

“An elevator is needed, toilet rooms made accessible, and likely other upgrades to hardware, lighting, and perhaps flooring,” the letter states.

Powers explained Duda’s money can be used only for the maintenance of the library.

According to his obituary, Duda was born in Greenfield on Oct. 1, 1942. He grew up in Whately and graduated from Frontier Regional High School in 1960 and from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1964. He spent 32 years in the U.S. Air Force and was sent to Korat, Thailand, during the Vietnam War. He retired from the 104th Fighter Wing as the support group commander with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1996.

At a ceremony a year ago, Duda’s longtime companion, Ginger Houghton, presented to the library a $200,000 check from Duda, who was 74 when he died. Ross previously said that Duda had spearheaded many of the library’s infrastructure projects for more than a decade.

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