July 18, 2003
Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
Building a wheelchair ramp at Dodson Elementary School will probably take several weeks. Getting it started took about five years.
"Nothing takes this long to be built," said Karen Carr of Wilkes-Barre. Carr, who has multiple sclerosis, has been the main force behind the project.
Though her children no longer attend the school, she knows others will benefit from the ramp. "I started it. I will not stop until it's finished," said Carr, 38.
Her son is in high school, but she remembers not being able to participate in his parent-teacher conferences at Dodson because the building wasn't accessible to her. Because of her illness, she sometimes uses a wheelchair.
The city agreed in 1998 to allocate grant money to build the ramp. In 2001, City Council unanimously approved an agreement with the School District in which the city would provide the district $40,000 for the ramp. The money is from a federal Community Development Block Grant that totaled about $2 million.
Mayor Tom McGroarty had said in March 2001 that the city ran out of money because of other projects. He was not immediately available Thursday for comment.
"We tried to be patient," said Wilkes-Barre Area Superintendent Jeff Namey. He said he is not sure why it took so long to begin construction. The School Board in December voted to award a bid of $23,900 to Power Builders Inc. of Wilkes-Barre to build the ramp designed by Michael J. Pasonick Jr. and Associates. Namey said the School District is not paying for any of the ramp's costs.
The ramp under construction will lead from the Airy Street side of the building. Carr said automatic doors should be installed at the top of the ramp to replace the existing heavy doors. It could not be determined Thursday whether they will be replaced.
The city has made grants in the past to improve accessibility at the Catholic Youth Center, the Osterhout Free Library and the YMCA. McGroarty had said that making improvements at public properties not owned by Wilkes-Barre is within the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines for use of the block grant funds.
Some district buildings have portable wheelchair ramps, but once inside the buildings, accessibility to the floors varies. Namey explained that if a building is significantly renovated, the changes must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"Ideally, every building should be totally in compliance. We certainly have an obligation that we do everything in our power to make the buildings as accessible as possible," Namey said.
Carr attended Dodson Elementary in the 1970s. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997, but has not let her illness weaken her persistence in pushing for the ramp.
"I either do my battles standing, sitting or with a walker."
Copyright © 2003, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader