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MANLEY – Handicapped and elderly residents who wanted to visit the Manley Community Center had been having problems moving up and down the historic building’s stairwells.

Manley residents celebrated a solution to that issue Saturday night with the unveiling of a vertical platform lift.

The new device is located on the southern side of Manley’s former schoolhouse. It will allow people who are either in wheelchairs or who need assistance walking to access all levels of the building. The vertical platform lift can bring people up to the building’s main floor and down to the basement.

Community leaders said they were thrilled to see the project come to fruition. Manley Village Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Mickey Dalton said residents wanted to make the structure a welcoming place for people of all ages and physical abilities.

“It was quite a project,” Dalton said. “It’s very rewarding to know that this will help a lot of people. That’s why we wanted to make this happen. This is a great building with a lot of history, and we wanted to make sure everyone would be able to visit it and enjoy it.”

“There were a lot of people who spent a lot of time and effort to make this project possible,” Village Board of Trustees member Tim Glas said. “It’s a great feeling to see how their hard work has paid off.”

The vertical platform lift project cost $51,368.44. No public money was used for the project, as Manley leaders raised all of the funds for the purchase and installation of the lift. A Nebraska Department of Economic Development grant of $19,000 spearheaded the endeavor, and the town collected $19,143.44 at Pillage the Village events from 2015-18. Manley also received 264.5 hours of in-kind donations worth $13,225.

A large majority of those in-kind donation hours came from Dalton, who worked professionally for many years as a remodeling contractor. He helped with the planning and implementation of the job at the 1931 brick building.

One of the major tasks was to dig a shaft for the vertical platform lift. The device had to be big enough to accommodate people in wheelchairs, and the shaft had to be tall enough to reach all levels of the building. Workers also wanted to be as careful as possible with the historic structure.

Dalton and other workers dug a shaft that went six feet down to the basement level. They removed a portion of the 16-inch-thick basement wall and created an entryway for people to use. They then created a similar amount of space above the main entrance to allow the lift to access the basement, ground level and second story all in one motion.

“Digging the shaft took a long time because the building was constructed so well in the beginning,” Dalton said. “They really built this place to last a while. When you have 16-inch-thick sidewalls it goes to show you how much care and concern they took with this all of those years ago.”

Village Clerk Jolene Dalton said community members are optimistic that the vertical platform lift will encourage more people to use the facility in years to come.

“We’re hoping this can help us have more school and family reunions and other activities in the building,” Dalton said. “We have a lot of people who are elderly and would want to use the lift in order to get up and down the different levels. We’re looking forward to the possibility of having more events here in the future because of this.”

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