County board approves grant administrator

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Closing access to the basement floor as a security measure and moving the wheelchair ramp might prove too costly for the Warren County Board of Supervisors.
At a public hearing Monday to gather comments on the move, Sara Dionne told supervisors that to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ramp would have to be gigantic leading to the large parking lot.
“I have a background in architecture with a specialty in handicap design.” Dionne said. “In fact, I was facilities planner for the City University of New York where I had to deal with handicap access with that.”
Dionne then told the board that for every inch of rise you need 12 inches of run. With a height difference of 84 inches between the parking lot and the ground floor of the courthouse, it would take a gigantic ramp,” Dionne said.
The supervisors looked stunned when she quoted the size of the ramp.
She instead offered a solution of retrofitting the current entrance and stationing a deputy near the door to unlock it for handicap use.
Supervisors approved The Ferguson Group LLC,  based in Madison, as grant administrator in anticipation of relocating handicap accessibility and improving courthouse security.
The whole purpose of the endeavor is not to improve handicap access, but to improve security at the courthouse.
“This hearing in my mind is supposed to be whether you’re for or against or whatever, it’s public input for the plan you have.” board president Bill Lauderdale said. “It’s kind of putting the cart before the horse.”
Mary Helen Ferguson president of The Ferguson Group, LLC told the board that actually the hearing was to find out what the public wanted the county to apply for. It is to determine if handicap accessibility was a need at the courthouse.
She assured the board that before applying for a Community Development Block Grant that all plans would be in place. She would work with the engineer the county hires to ensure they have addressed all security inadequacies found during a September tour of the courthouse grounds.
The effort is spurred by a presentation of those findings Jan. 20 by the chief of security at the state Supreme Court.
Judges who work in the courthouse, led by Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick, had asked security personnel at the Carroll Gartin Justice building to assess the nearly 75-year-old structure’s security profile. Officials recommended putting at least one metal detector on each of the courthouse’s upper three floors.
Besides wheelchair access, outfitting public elevators inside the courthouse with braille instructions is needed to bring the buildings into full compliance with the ADA.
The entire meeting lasted a brief 15 minutes before the board adjourned until March 2.

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