Entrapment-prone City Hall elevators could soon be rehabilitated

The Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee voted to recommend a rehabilitation project for City Council approval. (Cody Fitzpatrick/DD)

The 23-year-old slow, loud and unreliable Phoenix City Hall elevators could soon be getting a face lift.

“I’m not saying [the elevators] are unsafe, but they provide a lot of inconvenience due to entrapments,” said Phoenix Public Works Director John Trujillo. “We want to be a little proactive, and we would like to get approval to move forward and provide upgrades to the elevators at City Hall.”

Phoenix Public Works Deputy Director Felissa Washington-Smith asked the city’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee for a rehabilitation project Tuesday, and the subcommittee agreed to recommend the project for City Council approval.

Eventual City Council approval would result in adding the elevator upgrade to Phoenix’s fiscal year 2017 budget, issuing a solicitation for the project. The resulting costs which would also need approval would mean using up to $6 million in excise tax bonds.

Councilwoman Laura Pastor said she was once trapped in City Hall’s basement because the elevators were not working.

In another instance of entrapment, Mayor Greg Stanton was rescued from the elevators in March 2016.

Washington-Smith said because most elevators are used for 15-20 years, it is difficult to get parts and technical service for the current elevators, which will be 24 years old in November.

She suggested the best path forward involves “complete replacement of the mechanical systems.” This includes parts such as the motor drives, controllers and ropes.

According to Washington-Smith, the rehabilitation would involve a “phased approach,” which means all of the elevators would be operational throughout the project. The target completion date is December 2019.

Phoenix Chief Financial Officer Denise Olson proposed to fund the rehabilitation with excise tax bonds, recommending the project be a part of the April bond issuance that will cover telephones, LED lights and communications equipment for the fire and police departments.

When the floor was opened for public comment, Marvin Rochelle, a blind man who uses a wheelchair, offered a suggestion for a specific elevator feature that could benefit people with disabilities.

“For people who are visually impaired – they need the buttons lit up before they get into the elevators,” Rochelle said. “I recommend highly, when you put in your new technology, that the buttons be lit in advance when you come in.”

Following the meeting, Rochelle elaborated, saying the lights help blind users find the general direction of the buttons.

Contact the reporter at cmfitzpa@asu.edu.